How valid are utilization review tools in assessing appropriate use of acute care beds?

Kalant, Norman; Berlinguet, Marc; Diodati, Jean G.; Dragatakis, Leonidas; Marcotte, Francois
June 2000
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;6/27/2000, Vol. 162 Issue 13, p1809
Academic Journal
Background: Despite their widespread acceptance, utilization review tools, which were designed to assess the appropriateness of care in acute care hospitals, have not been well validated in Canada. The aim of this study was to assess the validity of 3 such tools -- ISD (Intensity of service, Severity of illness, Discharge screens), AEP (Appropriateness Evaluation Protocol) and MCAP (Managed Care Appropriateness Protocol) -- as determined by their agreement with the clinical judgement of a panel of experts.Methods: The cases of 75 patients admitted to an acute cardiology service were reviewed retrospectively. The criteria of each utilization review tool were applied by trained reviewers to each day the patients spent in hospital. An abstract of each case prepared in a day-by-day format was evaluated independently by 3 cardiologists, using clinical judgement to decide the appropriateness of each day spent in hospital.Results: The panel considered 92% of the admissions and 67% of the subsequent hospital days to be appropriate. The ISD underestimated the appropriateness rates of admission and subsequent days; the AEP and MCAP overestimated the appropriateness rate of subsequent days in hospital. The kappa statistic of overall agreement between tool and panel was 0.45 for ISD, 0.24 for MCAP and 0.25 for AEP, indicating poor to fair validity of the tools.Interpretation: Published validation studies had average kappa values of 0.32-0.44 (i.e., poor to fair) for admission days and for subsequent days in hospital for the 3 tools. The tools have only a low level of validity when compared with a panel of experts, which raises serious doubts about their usefulness for utilization review.


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