News: Decline in pneumonia mortality may be due to shift in documentation and coding


April 12, 2012

Just because hospitalizations and inpatient admissions due to pneumonia declined from 2003 to 2009, that doesn’t mean the U.S. population is healthier overall. In fact, according to a study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last week, as pneumonia cases declined hospitalizations for patients with a principal diagnosis of sepsis and respiratory failure and secondary diagnosis of pneumonia rose.

When the three pneumonia-related diagnoses were combined the decline in the inpatient mortality was little changed. The study authors say this suggests the results are associated with “temporal trends in diagnostic coding."
The study authors suggest that such shifts could adversely affect outcomes measurements and long-term health studies as the bulk of pneumonia cases classified as the principal diagnosis reflects less severe cases than previously. Pneumonia accounts for more than a million hospital admissions resulting in more than $10 billion in associated costs, according to a JAMA release.

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