Objective: To develop and validate automated electronic note search strategies (automated digital algorithm) to identify Charlson comorbidities. Patients and Methods: The automated digital algorithm was built by a series of programmatic queries applied to an institutional electronic medical record database. The automated digital algorithm was derived from secondary analysis of an observational cohort study of 1447 patients admitted to the intensive care unit from January 1 through December 31, 2006, and validated in an independent cohort of 240 patients. The sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values of the automated digital algorithm and International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes were compared with comprehensive medical record review (reference standard) for the Charlson comorbidities. Results: In the derivation cohort, the automated digital algorithm achieved a median sensitivity of 100% (range, 99%-100%) and a median specificity of 99.7% (range, 99%-100%). In the validation cohort, the sensitivity of the automated digital algorithm ranged from 91% to 100%, and the specificity ranged from 98% to 100%. The sensitivity of the ICD-9 codes ranged from 8% for dementia to 100% for leukemia, whereas specificity ranged from 86% for congestive heart failure to 100% for leukemia, dementia, and AIDS. Conclusion: Our results suggest that search strategies that use automated electronic search strategies to extract Charlson comorbidities from the clinical notes contained within the electronic medical record are feasible and reliable. Automated digital algorithm outperformed ICD-9 codes in all the Charlson variables except leukemia, with greater sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values.
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