Background: Studying diagnostic error at the population level requires an understanding of how diagnoses change over time. Objective: To use inter-hospital transfers to examine the frequency and impact of changes in diagnosis on patient risk, and whether health information exchange can improve patient safety by enhancing diagnostic accuracy. Design: Diagnosis coding before and after hospital transfer was merged with responses from the American Hospital Association Annual Survey for a cohort of patients transferred between hospitals to identify predictors of mortality. Participants: Patients (180,337) 18 years or older transferred between 473 acute care hospitals from NY, FL, IA, UT, and VT from 2011 to 2013. Main Measures: We identified discordant Elixhauser comorbidities before and after transfer to determine the frequency and developed a weighted score of diagnostic discordance to predict mortality. This was included in a multivariate model with inpatient mortality as the dependent variable. We investigated whether health information exchange (HIE) functionality adoption as reported by hospitals improved diagnostic discordance and inpatient mortality. Key Results: Discordance in diagnoses occurred in 85.5% of all patients. Seventy-three percent of patients gained a new diagnosis following transfer while 47% of patients lost a diagnosis. Diagnostic discordance was associated with increased adjusted inpatient mortality (OR 1.11 95% CI 1.10–1.11, p < 0.001) and allowed for improved mortality prediction. Bilateral hospital HIE participation was associated with reduced diagnostic discordance index (3.69 vs. 1.87%, p < 0.001) and decreased inpatient mortality (OR 0.88, 95% CI 0.89–0.99, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Diagnostic discordance commonly occurred during inter-hospital transfers and was associated with increased inpatient mortality. Health information exchange adoption was associated with decreased discordance and improved patient outcomes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding Information Funding support for this study was provided by the NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award at the University of Minnesota: 8UL1TR000114-02.