Risk-adjusting acute myocardial infarction mortality: Are APR-DRGs the right tool?

Patrick S. Romano, Benjamin K. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Objective. To determine if a widely used proprietary risk-adjustment system, APR-DRGs, misadjusts for severity of illness and misclassifies provider performance. Data Sources. (1) Discharge abstracts for 116,174 noninstitutionalized adults with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) admitted to nonfederal California hospitals in 1991-1993; (2) inpatient medical records for a stratified probability sample of 974 patients with AMIs admitted to 30 California hospitals between July 31, 1990 and May 31, 1991. Study Design. Using the 1991-1993 data set, we evaluated the predictive performance of APR-DRGs Version 12. Using the 1990/1991 validation sample, we assessed the effect of assigning APR-DRGs based on different sources of ICD- 9-CM data. Data Collection/Extraction Methods. Trained, blinded coders reabstracted all ICD-9-CM diagnoses and procedures, and established the timing of each diagnosis. APR-DRG Risk of Mortality and Severity of Illness classes were assigned based on (1) all hospital-reported diagnoses, (2) all reabstracted diagnoses, and (3) reabstracted diagnoses present at admission. The outcome variables were 30-day mortality in the 1991-1993 data set and 30- day inpatient mortality in the 1990/1991 validation sample. Principal Findings. The APR-DRG Risk of Mortality class was a strong predictor of death (c = .831-.847), but was further enhanced by adding age and sex. Reabstracting diagnoses improved the apparent performance of APR-DRGs (c = .93 versus c = .87), while using only the diagnoses present at admission decreased apparent performance (c = .74). Reabstracting diagnoses had less effect on hospitals' expected mortality rates (r = .83-.85) than using diagnoses present at admission instead of all reabstracted diagnoses (r = .72-.77). There was fair agreement in classifying hospital performance based on these three sets of diagnostic data (κ = 0.35-0.38). Conclusions. The APR-DRG Risk of Mortality system is a powerful risk-adjustment tool, largely because it includes all relevant diagnoses, regardless of timing. Although some late diagnoses may not be preventable, APR-DRGs appear suitable only if one assumes that none is preventable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1489
Number of pages21
JournalHealth Services Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2000


  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Hospital performance
  • Report card
  • Risk adjustment
  • Risk of mortality
  • Severity of illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)
  • Health Policy


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