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This article is the author’s final published version in Population Health Management, Volume 21, Issue 3, June 2018, Pages 222-230.

Final publication is available from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers at Copyright © Mocarski et al.


Obesity is a potentially modifiable risk factor for many diseases, and a better understanding of its impact on health care utilization, costs, and medical outcomes is needed. The ability to accurately evaluate obesity outcomes depends on a correct identification of the population with obesity. The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and accuracy of International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) coding for overweight and obesity within a US primary care electronic health record (EHR) database compared against actual body mass index (BMI) values from recorded clinical patient data; characteristics of patients with obesity who did or did not receive ICD-9 codes for overweight/obesity also were evaluated. The study sample included 5,512,285 patients in the database with any BMI value recorded between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2014. Based on BMI, 74.6% of patients were categorized as being overweight or obese, but only 15.1% of patients had relevant ICD-9 codes. ICD-9 coding prevalence increased with increasing BMI category. Among patients with obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2), those coded for obesity were younger, more often female, and had a greater comorbidity burden than those not coded; hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and gastroesophageal reflux disease were the most common comorbidities.

KEY FINDINGS: US outpatients with overweight or obesity are not being reliably coded, making ICD-9 codes undependable sources for determining obesity prevalence and outcomes. BMI data available within EHR databases offer a more accurate and objective means of classifying overweight/obese status.

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