Documentation of preventive screening interventions by general practitioners: a retrospective chart audit

BMC Fam Pract. 2010 Mar 9:11:21. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-11-21.


Background: Screening and early diagnosis has been shown to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with certain conditions such as cervical cancer. The role of general practitioners in promoting primary prevention of diseases is particularly important given that they have frequent contact with a large proportion of the population. This study assessed the extent to which general practitioners documented recommended preventive screening interventions among eligible patients.

Methods: We used a retrospective chart audit to assess patient visits to primary care clinics in Calgary, Canada from 2002-2004. We included fee for service physicians who practiced > or = 2 days per week at their current location and excluded those whose primary practice was at walk-in clinics, community health centers, hospitals or emergency rooms. We included charts of patients who during the study period were age 35 years or older and had at least 2 visits to a clinic. We randomly selected and reviewed charts (N = 600) from 12 primary care clinics and abstracted information on 6 conditions recommended for preventive screening. Opportunities for preventive screening were determined based on recommendations of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, the American College of Physicians, and the Canadian Cancer Society. Our main outcome measures included cancer screening (mammography and pap smears), immunization (influenza and pneumococcal), and risk factor assessment (cholesterol measurement and smoking cessation consultation).

Results: Patient visits to GP clinics present opportunities for preventive screening. However, we found that documentation of interventions was low, ranging from 40.3% (cholesterol measurement) to 0.9% (pneumococcal vaccination) within 1 year, and from 67.4% to 1.8% within the prior 3 years.

Conclusions: Documentation of preventive screening interventions by general practitioners was relatively low compared to the number of patients eligible for preventive screening. Some physicians opt to screen for PSA and DRE which is not recommended by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive HealthCare.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Clinical Audit*
  • Documentation*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Preventive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies