Factors associated with physician agreement on verbal autopsy of over 27000 childhood deaths in India

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Introduction: Each year, more than 10 million children younger than five years of age die. The large majority of these deaths occur in the developing world. The verbal autopsy (VA) is a tool designed to ascertain cause of death in such settings. While VA has been validated against hospital diagnosed cause of death, there has been no research conducted to better understand the factors that may influence individual physicians in determining cause of death from VA. Methodology/Principal Findings: This study uses data from over 27,000 neonatal and childhood deaths from The Million Death Study in which 6.3 million people in India were monitored for vital status between 1998 and 2003. The main outcome variable was physician agreement or disagreement of category of death and the variables were assessed for association using the kappa statistic, univariate and multivariate logistic regression using a conceptual hierarchical model, and a sensitivity and specificity analysis using the final VA category of mortality as the gold standard. The main variables found to be significantly associated with increased physician agreement included older ages and male gender of the deceased. When taking into account confounding factors in the multivariate analysis, we did not find consistent significant differences in physician agreement based on the death being in a rural or urban area, at home or in a health care facility, registered or not, or the respondent's gender, religion, relationship to the deceased, or whether or not the respondent lived with the deceased. Conclusions/Significance: Factors influencing physician agreement/disagreement to the greatest degree are the gender and age of the deceased; specifically, physicians tend to be less likely to agree on a common category of death in female children and in younger ages, particularly neonates. Additional training of physician reviewers and continued adaptation of the VA itself, with a focus on gender and age of the deceased, may be useful in increasing rates of physician agreement in these groups. © 2010 Morris et al.




Morris, S. K., Bassani, D. G., Kumar, R., Awasthi, S., Paul, V. K., & Jha, P. (2010). Factors associated with physician agreement on verbal autopsy of over 27000 childhood deaths in India. PLoS ONE, 5(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009583

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