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Research Methods

Designing an Abstraction Instrument: Lessons from Efforts to Validate the AHRQ Patient Safety Indicators

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Background: The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and other organizations have developed quality indicators based on hospital administrative data. Characteristics of effective abstraction instruments were identified for determining both the positive predictive value (PPV) of Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) and the extent to which hospitals and clinicians could have prevented adverse events.

Methods: Through an iterative process involving nurse abstractors, physicians, and nurses with quality improvement experience, and health services researchers, 25 abstraction instruments were designed for 12 AHRQ provider-level morbidity PSIs. Data were analyzed from 13 of these instruments, and data are being collected using several more.

Findings: Common problems in designing the instruments included avoiding uninformative questions and premature termination of the abstraction process, anticipating misinterpretation of questions, allowing an appropriate range of response options; using clear terminology, optimizing the flow of the abstraction process, balancing the utility of data against abstractor burden, and recognizing the needs of end users, such as hospitals and quality improvement professionals and researchers, for the abstracted information.

Conclusions: Designing medical record abstraction instruments for quality improvement research involves several potential pitfalls. Understanding how we addressed these challenges might help both investigators and users of outcome indicators to appreciate the strengths and limitations of outcome-based quality indicators and tools designed to validate or investigate such indicators within provider organizations.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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