Open Access Open Badges Research article

Concordance between medical records and interview data in correctional facilities

Jennifer R Bai1*, Dhritiman V Mukherjee123, Montina Befus12, Zoltan Apa1, Franklin D Lowy3 and Elaine L Larson12

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2014, 14:50  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-50

Published: 9 April 2014



Self- administered questionnaires or interviews and medical records are often used as sources of research data; thus it is essential to evaluate their concordance and reliability. The aim of this paper was to assess the concordance between medical and behavioral data obtained from medical records and interview questionnaires in two correctional facilities.


Medical record and interview data were compared for 679 inmates from one male and one female maximum security prison between April 2010 and February 2013. Gender non-stratified and gender-stratified analyses were conducted in SPSS to calculate the prevalence and kappa coefficient scores (κ) for medical (e.g., HIV, diabetes, hypertension) and behavioral (e.g., smoking, drug use, tattoos) conditions. Sensitivity/specificity between medical records and interview were calculated in the gender non-stratified data.


In the gender non-stratified analysis, κ score for HIV, hepatitis C, diabetes, asthma, and history of tattoos had strong or good concordance (0.66-0.89). Hypertension, renal/kidney disease, cigarette smoking, antibiotic use in the last 6 months, and cocaine use ever were moderately correlated (0.49-0.57). Both history of any illicit drug use ever (0.36) and marijuana use ever (0.23) had poor concordance. Females had higher κ scores and prevalence rates than males overall. Medical conditions were reported more frequently in medical records and behavioral conditions had higher prevalence in interviews. Sensitivity for medical conditions in the combined facility data ranged from 50.0% to 86.0% and 48.2% to 85.3% for behavioral conditions whereas specificity ranged from 95.9% to 99.5% for medical conditions and 75.9% to 92.8% for behavioral conditions.


Levels of agreement between medical records and self-reports varied by type of factor. Medical conditions were more frequently reported by chart review and behavioral factors more frequently by self-report. Data source used may need to be chosen carefully depending upon the type of information sought.

Medical records; Interviews; Questionnaires; Self-reports; Concordance; Reliability; Agreement; Kappa statistics