Are We Asking Patients if They Smoke?: Missing Information on Tobacco Use in Canadian Electronic Medical Records

Am J Prev Med. 2015 Aug;49(2):264-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.01.005. Epub 2015 May 18.


Introduction: All adolescent and adult patients should be asked if they smoke. Data entered in electronic medical records offer new opportunities to study tobacco-related clinical activities. The purpose of this study is to examine the recording of tobacco use in Canadian electronic medical records.

Methods: Data were collected on September 30, 2013, and analyzed in 2014. Data on 249,223 patients that were aged ≥16 years as of September 30, 2013 and had at least one primary care encounter in the previous 2 years were included. The proportion of patients with information on tobacco use entered in a summative health profile was calculated. Associations between data gaps and patient or physician factors were examined.

Results: Information on tobacco use was available for 64.4% of patients. Physicians using an electronic medical record for ≥4 years were more likely to have data (AOR=4.57, 95% CI=1.84, 7.29, p<0.0001). Patients aged ≥30 years were more likely to have tobacco information present (AOR=2.92, 95% CI=2.82, 3.02, p<0.0001, for patients aged 30-59 compared to those aged <30 years), as were patients with any comorbidities (AOR=1.41, 95% CI=1.36, 1.45, p<0.0001, for patients with one or two comorbidities compared with none) or more visits.

Conclusions: A third of Canadians in this sample lacked data on tobacco in their electronic medical record. Younger, healthier people were less likely to have information about their smoking status. Efforts to improve the recording of tobacco-related information in electronic medical records, especially for younger patients, are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Canada
  • Data Collection
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Tobacco Use / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult