Prevalence and management of dementia in primary care practices with electronic medical records: a report from the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network

CMAJ Open. 2016 Apr 28;4(2):E177-84. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20150050. eCollection Apr-Jun 2016.


Background: The proportion of Canadians living with Alzheimer disease and related dementias is projected to rise, with an increased burden on the primary health care system in particular. Our objective was to describe the prevalence and management of dementia in a community-dwelling sample using electronic medical record (EMR) data from the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN), which consists of validated, national, point-of-care data from primary care practices.

Methods: We used CPCSSN data as of Dec. 31, 2012, for patients 65 years and older with at least 1 clinical encounter in the previous 2 years. A validated case definition for dementia was used to calculate the national and provincial prevalence rates, to examine variations in prevalence according to age, sex, body mass index, rural or urban residence, and select comorbid conditions, and to describe patterns in the pharmacologic management of dementia over time at the provincial level.

Results: The age-standardized prevalence of dementia among community-dwelling patients 65 years and older was 7.3%. Prevalence estimates increased with age; they also varied between provinces, and upward trends were observed. Dementia was found to be associated with comorbid diabetes, depression, epilepsy and parkinsonism. Most of the patients with dementia did not have a prescription for a dementia-related medication recorded in their EMR between 2008 and 2012 inclusive. Those who had a prescription were most often prescribed donepezil by their primary care provider.

Interpretation: Overall prevalence estimates for dementia based on EMR data in this sample managed in primary care were generally in line with previous estimates based on administrative data, survey results or clinical sources.