Prevalence and epidemiology of diabetes in Canadian primary care practices: a report from the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network

Can J Diabetes. 2014 Jun;38(3):179-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjd.2014.02.030. Epub 2014 May 14.


Objective: The Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN) is a large, validated national primary care Electronic Medical Records (EMR)-based database. Our objective was to describe the epidemiology of diabetes in this Canadian sample.

Methods: We analyzed the records of 272 469 patients10 years of age and older, with at least 1 primary care clinical encounter between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2012. We calculated the age-gender standardized prevalence of diabetes. We compared health care utilization and comorbidities for 7 selected chronic conditions in patients with and without diabetes. We also examined patterns of medication usage.

Results: The estimated population prevalence of diabetes was 7.6%. Specifically, we studied 25 425 people with diabetes who had at least 1 primary care encounter in 2 years. On average, patients with diabetes had 1.42 times as many practice encounters as patients without diabetes (95% CI 1.42 to 1.43, p<0.0001). Patients with diabetes had 1.29 times as many other comorbid conditions as those without diabetes (95% CI 1.27 to 1.31, p<0.0001). We found that 85.2% of patients taking hypoglycemic medications were taking metformin, and 51.8% were taking 2 or more classes of medications.

Conclusions: This study is the first national Canadian report describing the epidemiology of diabetes using primary care EMR-based data. We found significantly higher rates of primary care use, and greater numbers of comorbidities in patients with diabetes. Most patients were on first-line hypoglycemic medications. Data routinely recorded in EMRs can be used for surveillance of chronic diseases such as diabetes in Canada. These results can enable comparisons with other national EMR-based datasets.

Keywords: computerized; diabetes mellitus; diabète sucré; drug therapy; epidemiology; informatisé; medical record systems; pharmacothérapie; systèmes de dossiers médicaux; épidémiologie.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Comorbidity*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / economics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / economics
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care* / economics
  • Primary Health Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Sentinel Surveillance


  • Hypoglycemic Agents