The validation of electronic health records in accurately identifying patients eligible for colorectal cancer screening in safety net clinics

Fam Pract. 2016 Dec;33(6):639-643. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmw065. Epub 2016 Jul 28.


Background: While electronic health records (EHRs) play a key role in increasing colorectal cancer (CRC) screening by identifying individuals who are overdue, important shortfalls remain.

Objectives: As part of the Strategies and Opportunities to STOP Colon Cancer (STOP CRC) study, we assessed the accuracy of EHR codes in identifying patients eligible for CRC screening.

Methods: We selected a stratified random sample of 800 study participants from 26 participating clinics, in the Pacific Northwest region of the USA. We compared data obtained through codes in the EHR to conduct a manual chart audit. A trained chart abstractor completed the abstraction of eligible and ineligible patients.

Results: Of 520 individuals in need of CRC screening, identified via the EHR, 459 were confirmed through chart review (positive predictive value = 88%). Of 280 individuals flagged as up-to-date in their screening per EHR data, 269 were confirmed through chart review (negative predictive value = 96%). Among the 61 patients incorrectly classified as eligible, 83.6% of disagreements were due to evidence of a prior colonoscopy or referral that was not captured in recognizable fields in the EHR.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight importance of better capture of past screening events in the EHR. While the need for better population-based data is not unique to CRC screening, it provides an important example of the use of population-based data not only for tracking care, but also for delivering interventions.

Trial registration: NCT01742065.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; community medicine; electronic health record; gastroenterology; screening..

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • Electronic Health Records* / standards
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Northwestern United States
  • Patient Selection*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Safety-net Providers

Associated data