A four-way patient search method for the retrospective identification of poisoning patients

Veronika Uslin, Ville Hällberg, Timo Lukkarinen, Marjo Niskanen, Teemu Koivistoinen, Ari Palomäki

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When studying emergency department (ED) visits, electronic health record systems of hospitals provide a good basis for retrospective studies. However, many intoxication patients presenting to the ED, may not be identified retrospectively if only a single search method is applied. In this study, a new four-way combined patient search method was used to retrospectively identify intoxication patients presenting to the ED. The search included reason for admission to the ED, laboratory results related to intoxication diagnostics, ICD-10 codes, and a novel free word search (FWS) of patient records. After the automated search, the researcher read the medical records of potential substance abuse patients to form comprehensive profiles and remove irrelevant cases. The addition of a free word search identified 36% more substance abuse patients than the combination of the other three methods mentioned above. Patients identified by the FWS search alone were generally admitted to the ED for trauma or mental health problems and were often found to be heavily under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The main intoxicants were ethanol and benzodiazepines. The free word search was highly complementary to traditional patient search methods, highlighting the importance of the combined patient search method in retrospective data collection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1801
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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