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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 Oct 2022 - 14 Oct 2022

Human Studies

2022 Oct 08

Sci Rep



A cross-sectional study to validate an administrative back pain severity classification tool based on the graded chronic pain scale.



Treatment of chronic lower back pain (CLBP) should be stratified for best medical and economic outcome. To improve the targeting of potential participants for exclusive therapy offers from payers, Freytag et al. developed a tool to classify back pain chronicity classes (CC) based on claim data. The aim of this study was to evaluate the criterion validity of the model. Administrative claim data and self-reported patient information from 3,506 participants (2014-2021) in a private health insurance health management programme in Germany were used to validate the tool. Sensitivity, specificity, and Matthews' correlation coefficient (MCC) were calculated comparing the prediction with actual grades based on von Korff's graded chronic pain scale (GCPS). The secondary outcome was an updated view on direct health care costs (€) of patients with back pain (BP) grouped by GCPS. Results showed a fair correlation between predicted CC and actual GCPS grades. A total of 69.7% of all cases were correctly classified. Sensitivity and specificity rates of 54.6 and 76.4% underlined precision. Correlation between CC and GCPS with an MCC of 0.304 also indicated a fair relationship between prediction and observation. Cost data could be clearly grouped by GCPS: the higher the grade, the higher the costs and the use of health care. This was the first study to compare the predicted severity of BP using claim data with the actual severity of BP by GCPS. Based on the results, the usage of CC as a single tool to determine who receives CLBP treatment cannot be recommended. CC is a good tool to segment candidates for specific types of intervention in BP. However, it cannot replace a medical screening at the beginning of an intervention, as the rate of false negatives is too high. Trial registration The study was conducted using routinely collected data from an intervention, which was previously evaluated and registered retrospectively in the German Registry of Clinical Trials under DRKS00015463 (04/09/2018). Informed consent and the self-reported questionnaire have remained unchanged since the study and, therefore, are still valid according to the ethics proposal.