The purpose of this study was two-pronged: 1) to determine the level of concordance (agreement) between multiple records abstractors who extracted defined data elements from printed medical examiner/coroner (ME/C) death investigation records; and 2) to identify data items for which improved reporting could facilitate the effective use of ME/C reports and data.
Four hundred ninety four printed death investigation records were obtained from 224 medical examiner/coroner offices throughout the United States. Trained abstractors were asked to extract information for 110 data elements from investigative reports. Additional data elements for each toxicology workup were abstracted from toxicology laboratory reports and six-digit AIS codes were also abstracted for each injury as described in autopsy reports. The ability of multiple abstractors to identify each data element and identically abstract the data was assessed using Kappa statistical methods.
Level of agreement for many data elements was very good (>0.9), but for some data elements agreement was marginal to poor, especially for items related to toxicology, the nature of specific injuries, and dates, times of the occurrence of death and injury.
Many data items can be easily abstracted from ME/C records. However, some data items seem difficult to abstract reliably in all cases. Standardizing the report formats used by ME/Cs and/or standardizing the electronic storage of ME/C data would make the abstraction of such data easier and improve the usefulness of ME/C data.
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