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Probabilistic Linkage of Prehospital and Outcomes Data in Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest



Lack of longitudinal patient outcome data is an important barrier in emergency medical services (EMS) research. We aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of linking prehospital data from the California EMS Information Systems (CEMSIS) database to outcomes data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) database for patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA).


We included patients age 18 years or older who sustained nontraumatic OHCA and were included in the 2010-2011 CEMSIS databases. The CEMSIS database is a unified EMS data collection system for California. The OSHPD database is a comprehensive data collection system for patient-level inpatient and emergency department encounters in California. OHCA patients were identified in the CEMSIS database using cardiac rhythm, procedures, medications, and provider impression. Probabilistic linkage blocks were created using in-hospital death or one of the following primary or secondary diagnoses (ICD-9-CM) in the OSHPD databases: cardiac arrest (427.5), sudden death (798), ventricular tachycardia (427.1), ventricular fibrillation (427.4), and acute myocardial infarction (410.xx). Blocking variables included incident date, gender, date of birth, age, and/or destination facility. Due to the volume of cases, match thresholds were established based on clerical record review for each block individually. Match variables included incident date, destination facility, date of birth, sex, race, and ethnicity.


Of the 14,603 cases of OHCA we identified in CEMSIS, 91 (0.6%) duplicate records were excluded. Overall, 46% of the data used in the linkage algorithm were missing in CEMSIS. We linked 4,961/14,512 (34.2%) records. Linkage rates varied significantly by local EMS agency, ranging from 1.4 to 61.1% (OR for linkage 0.009-0.76; p < 0.0001). After excluding the local EMS agency with the outlying low linkage rate, we linked 4,934/12,596 (39.2%) records.


Probabilistic linkage of CEMSIS prehospital data with OSHPD outcomes data was severely limited by the completeness of the EMS data. States and EMS agencies should aim to overcome data limitations so that more effective linkages are possible.

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