The core of computer based patient records in family practice: episodes of care classified with ICPC

Int J Biomed Comput. 1996 Jul;42(1-2):35-41. doi: 10.1016/0020-7101(96)01179-8.


A central element in the definition of primary care is that primary care clinicians address the large majority of personal health care needs of their patients. As a consequence, they should document data on these health care needs reliably and continuously. To establish whether this occurs, the episode of care is the most appropriate unit of assessment: a health problem from its first encounter with a health care provider until the completion of the last encounter for it. An episode of care is distinguished from episodes of disease and of illness. The episode of care as an epidemiological concept for the calculation of rates has evolved into a central element of a computer based record. Episode oriented data classified with the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC), and specified with ICD-10 as a nomenclature are especially suitable as the core of a generic patient record in family practice. ICPC has been available to the family medicine community for well over a decade as the main ordering principle of its domain. The basic structure of an encounter (within the string of encounters which together form an episode of care) distinguishes reasons for encounter, diagnoses and diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. In this article, a more refined structure of encounters is proposed for a more precise documentation of episodes of care in a computer based patient record. The conversion structure between ICPC and ICD-10 allows both a high level of specificity in the patient's problem list and optimal communication with specialists who contribute to the episodes of care for which the documentation is the primary care provider's responsibility.

MeSH terms

  • Episode of Care*
  • Family Practice / classification*
  • International Cooperation
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized*
  • Netherlands
  • Terminology as Topic