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In data we trust? An evaluation of the quality of influenza hospital admissions data gathered by automated versus manual reporting


The Washington Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System (CHARS) has collected discharge data from billing systems for every inpatient admitted to every hospital in the state since 1987 [1]. The purpose of the system is to provide data for making informed decisions on health care. The system collects age, sex, zip code and billed charges of the patient, as well as hospital names and discharge diagnoses and procedure codes. The data have potential value for monitoring the severity of outbreaks such as influenza, but not for prospective surveillance: Reporting to CHARS is manual, not real-time, and there is roughly a 9-month lag in release of information by the state. In 2005, Public Health - Seattle & King County (PHSKC) requested that hospitals report pneumonia and influenza admissions (based on both admission and discharge codes) directly to the PHSKC biosurveillance system; data elements included hospital name, date/time of admission, age, sex, home zip code, chief complaint, disposition, and diagnoses. In 2008, reporting was revised to collect separate admission and discharge diagnoses, whether the patient was intubated or was in the ICU, and a patient/visit key. Hospitals transmit data daily for visits that occurred up to 1 month earlier. Previously, we identified a strong concordance between the volume of influenza diagnoses recorded across the PHSKC and CHARS systems over time [2]. However, discrepancies were observed, particularly when stratified by hospital. We undertook an evaluation to identify the causes of these discrepancies.


We sought to evaluate the quality of influenza hospitalizations data gathered by our biosurveillance system.

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