Coding of Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis Delayed

Free text indicates diagnosis before coding in 22 percent of ovarian cancer cases

THURSDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- Free text contains extra information relating to the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and in some cases indicates a time lag between the diagnosis and coding in the medical record, according to a study published online Feb. 23 in BMJ Open.

A. Rosemary Tate, D.Phil., from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed free text records from the General Practice Research Database of 344 women with a Read code indicating ovarian cancer between June 2002 and May 2008 for the date of diagnosis, and use of the word ovary. The diagnosis date recorded in the free text was compared to the date at which the diagnosis was first coded.

The investigators found that, in 22 percent of the cases, the text confirmed a diagnosis before the coded date; in 10 percent of cases, the text diagnosis was more than four weeks earlier. In 90 percent of the cases, the free text contained some information relating to the ovary but definite diagnosis of ovarian cancer was present in only 45 percent of cases. Four patients with coding for ovarian cancer did not have ovarian cancer and, in 10 percent of coded cases, the diagnosis was ambiguous or suspected.

"For diseases which rely on hospital consultants for diagnosis, free text (particularly letters) is invaluable for accurate dating of diagnosis and referrals and also for identifying misclassified cases," the authors write.

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