Consequences of impaired data quality on information retrieval in electronic patient records

Int J Med Inform. 2005 Jun;74(5):387-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2004.11.001. Epub 2004 Dec 22.


Objectives: To assess the quality of specific information in electronic patient records and the consequences of sub-optimal data quality on automated information retrieval.

Methods: Patient records were evaluated with respect to accuracy of data relevant for retrieval according to a source-oriented, time-oriented and concept-oriented view of the record. Retrieval effectiveness was estimated using various methods based on record structure, text based retrieval and combinations of these.

Results: 98.1% of record documents were consistent regarding author, 99.8% regarding department of origin and 90.9% regarding document date. Document type was definitely not consistent in 8% of the documents. Estimated recall was 97% with 50% precision for document retrieval on the basis of date, and varying from 31 to 100% for retrieval based on document type. Retrieval based on manually supplied semantic tags performed better than simple string-based methods and improved when combined with string-matching mechanisms.

Conclusions: Data attributes central for automated document retrieval in electronic patient records showed variable accuracy, with potentially negative consequences for basic record navigation. Text-based retrieval was inferior to methods based on data representing record structure. Quality of specific information elements suffered from lack of precise definitions and adequate mechanisms for quality assurance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / organization & administration*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized / standards
  • Norway
  • Research Design
  • Software