Electronic medical records may be inadequate for improving population health status through general practice: cervical smears as a case study

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2004 Aug;28(4):317-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2004.tb00436.x.


Objective: [corrected] To determine whether routine electronic records are an accurate source of population health data in general practice through reviewing cervical smears rates in four South Australian practices.

Methods: The cervical screening rate in a purposive sample of four general practices (three rural and one urban) was obtained using an audit of medical records and a telephone follow-up.

Results: The cervical screening rate using only immediately available electronic medical records indicated an overall low rate for the participating practices (44.9%). However, telephone follow-up and adjustments to the denominator indicated the real rate to be 85.7%. The offer of appointments during the telephone follow-up further improved this rate for eligible women (93.8%).

Conclusions and implications: Electronic medical records may be inadequate in preventive screening in general practice, without ensuring their accuracy. Updating records by telephone or personal follow-up produces a much more accurate denominator.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • South Australia
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data*