Structure, importance and recording of therapeutic information in the medical record: a multicentre observational study

J Eval Clin Pract. 2015 Dec;21(6):1129-34. doi: 10.1111/jep.12432. Epub 2015 Aug 12.


Rationale, aims and objectives: Structuring the diagnostic section of the medical record (MR) improves diagnosis and communication between doctors. However, little is known about the therapeutic section of the MR. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the extent to which MRs are structured for therapeutic information, to determine which therapeutic data registrars and clinical consultants consider should be recorded in the MR and to what extent registrars record this information themselves.

Methods: A multicentre observational study was carried out in the internal medicine outpatient clinics of five teaching hospitals in the Netherlands. Preformatted structure, importance and actual recording of therapeutic information was compared with a reference list of 35 therapeutic items based on the WHO Guide to Good Prescribing (e.g. drug name, indication for drug).

Results: The preformatted structure of four paper MRs and one electronic MR was assessed. Eight of the 35 therapeutic items were listed in the paper MRs and 18 items in the electronic MR. Registrars and consultants agreed on the importance of recording most of the therapeutic items in the MR, 25 and 27 out of the 35 items, respectively; however, registrars recorded only 11 of the 35 items in the paper MR and 20 of the 35 items in the electronic MR.

Conclusions: The structure and content of paper and electronic MRs are not adequate. While both registrars and consultants agree on the importance of recording therapeutic items in the MR, registrars fail to record most of this information in practice. The results of this study can be used as starting point for the discussion regarding the necessity of structured recording of therapeutic information in the MR and its possible benefits with regard to medication safety and training of the new generation of prescribers.

Keywords: medical record; pharmacotherapy; preformatted structure; prescribing; structuring; therapeutic information.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Documentation / methods*
  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration
  • Health Records, Personal*
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine*
  • Netherlands
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital