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.