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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Florida Researchers Publish on Birth Defects Surveillance

USF’s College of Public Health faculty and staff, together with the Florida Department of Health, have recently published a manuscript titled, “The Accuracy of Hospital Discharge Diagnosis Codes for Major Birth Defects: Evaluation of a Statewide Registry With Passive Case Ascertainment.” Published in the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, the study explores the accuracy of the hospital discharge system at identifying birth defects.

COPH researchers of the USF Birth Defects Surveillance Program involved with the study include doctoral candidate Jean Paul Tanner, epidemiologist and statistical data analyst; Diana Sampat, abstraction coordinator; and USF Distinguished Professor and Marrell Endowed Chair Dr. Russell Kirby, director. COPH alumnus Dr. Jason Salemi was lead author of the study.

The goal of the Florida Birth Defects Registry is to identify all children born in the state with birth defects and it has been used as a passive surveillance system since 1999.  The state gets this information through the hospital discharge summary, which is an electronic summary of a person’s hospital stay.

This particular manuscript explores the accuracy of the hospital discharge system by reviewing actual medical records to see how closely the data matches.

Among the conditions the team looked at are gastroschisis, where an infant is born with part of their abdominal organs on the outside of their body, and limb malformations.

“All of the conditions we were looking at are conditions that, at least on the face of it, should be identifiable during the newborn hospital stay,” Kirby said.

The study concluded that, overall, this method of passively collecting birth defect information was about 93 percent correct. While that provides fairly good results, the system is not perfect.

This study confirms that if a state or region can only fund the use of hospital discharge data, it will do a reasonable job with birth defects surveillance, but it is not going to capture all of the cases.  If the registry were used to link families with corresponding services that they may be eligible for, some families might be contacted erroneously.

While this study only examines a part of the Florida Birth Defects Registry, it has implications. The research contributes to a better understanding of the risk factors that lead different segments of the population to have higher risk for birth defects.

“It contributes to a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of birth defects surveillance programs that rely predominantly on the hospital discharge data,” Kirby said.  “This is one piece of a much larger effort.”

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