Comparing and validating medication complexity from insurance claims against electronic health records

Published: June 7, 2022
Category: Bibliography
Authors: C Kitchen, H Chang, H Kharrazi, J Weiner, K Shermock, M Bishop
Countries: USA
Language: English
Types: Care Management, Population Health, Utilization
Settings: Commercial, Health Plan



Patient effort to comply with complex medication instructions is known to be related to nonadherence and subsequent medical complications or health care costs. A widely used Medication Regimen Complexity Index (MRCI) has been used with electronic health records (EHRs) to identify patients who could benefit from pharmacist intervention. A similar claims-derived measure may be better suited for clinical decision support, since claims offer a more complete view of patient care and health utilization.


To define and validate a novel insurance claims–based medication complexity score (MCS) patterned after the widely used MRCI, derived from EHRs.


Insurance claims and EHR data were provided by HealthPartners (N=54,988) (Bloomington, Minnesota) and The Johns Hopkins Health System (N=28,589) (Baltimore, Maryland) for years 2013 and 2017, respectively. Yearly measures of medication complexity were developed for each patient and evaluated with one another using rank correlation within different clinical subgroupings. Indicators for the presence of individually complex prescriptions were also developed and assessed using exact agreement. Complexity measures were then correlated with select covariates to further validate the concordance between MCS and MRCI with respect to clinical metrics. These included demographic, comorbidity, and health care utilization markers. Prescribed medications in each system’s EHR were coded using the previously validated MRCI weighting rules. Insurance claims for retail pharmacy medications were coded using our novel MCS, which closely followed MRCI scoring rules.


EHR-based MRCI and claims-based MCS were significantly correlated with one another for most clinical subgroupings. Likewise, both measures were correlated with several covariates, including count of active medications and chronic conditions. The MCS was, in most cases, more associated with key health covariates than was MRCI, although both were consistently significant. We found that the highest correlation between MCS and MRCI is obtained with patients who have similar counts of pharmacy records between EHRs and claims (HealthPartners: P=0.796; Johns Hopkins Health System: P=0.779).


The findings suggest good correspondence between MCS and MRCI and that claims data represent a useful resource for assessing medication complexity. Claims data also have major practical advantages, such as interoperability across health care systems, although they lack the detailed clinical context of EHRs.

medication complexity,EHR,MRCI,interoperability

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