Using electronic health records to address overweight and obesity: a systematic review

Am J Prev Med. 2013 Oct;45(4):494-500. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.05.015.


Context: Overweight and obesity are problems of tremendous public health importance, but clinicians often fail to discuss weight management with their patients. Electronic health records (EHRs) have improved quality of care for some conditions and could be an effective mechanism for helping clinicians address overweight and obesity. This review sought to summarize current evidence on the use of EHRs for assessment and management of overweight and obesity.

Evidence acquisition: The authors searched PubMed/MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, Web of Science, CINAHL, INSPEC, IEEE Explore, and the ACM Digital Library from their inception through August 15, 2012; analyses were conducted between September 2012 and March 2013. Eligible studies had to involve a new feature or a change in an existing feature within an EHR related to the identification, evaluation, or management of overweight and obesity. Included in the review were RCTs and nonrandomized controlled trials, pre-post studies with a historical control group, and descriptive studies. One reviewer screened all of the titles and abstracts. Citations that were potentially eligible were independently reviewed by two reviewers. Disagreements were resolved by consensus.

Evidence synthesis: Of the 1188 unique citations identified, 11 met the inclusion criteria. Seven of these studies were conducted in children and adolescents, and four were conducted in adults. Most of the studies were pre-post studies with a historical control group, and only three were RCTs. Most of the interventions included calculation, display, or plotting of BMI or BMI percentiles; fewer included other features. The majority of studies examined clinician performance outcomes; only two studies examined patient outcomes.

Conclusions: Few studies have examined whether EHR-based tools can help clinicians address overweight and obesity, and further studies are needed to examine the effects of EHR features on weight-related outcomes in patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Quality of Health Care