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Ovarian cancer coding 'delayed by 24 days'

By Laura Passi

There is a time lag between the diagnosis of ovarian cancer and the entrance of the Read code into patients' records by GPs, a UK study has found.

An analysis was undertaken which looked at the ‘hidden' information contained within the free text of patient records relating to the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

A significant amount of information was found relating to the dates of information input, which can determine when the GP was notified of diagnosis and identify cases that have not been coded.

The study found that the entrance of the ovarian cancer Read code was delayed by 24 days after a ‘definite diagnosis' entered into the free text in half of the records analysed.

For certain disease areas, particularly where specialist care is involved, free text can be used to determine the extent of misclassification associated with the coded date of diagnosis and identification of cases.

Dr Rosemary Tate an author of the research concluded: ‘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'.

BMJ Open 2011, online 23 February

Ovarian cancer coding 'delayed by 24 days'

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