Implementation of data management and effect on chronic disease coding in a primary care organisation: A parallel cohort observational study

Michelle Greiver, Kimberly Wintemute, Babak Aliarzadeh, Ken Martin, Shahriar Khan, Dave Jackson, Jannet Leggett, Anita Lambert-Lanning, Maggie Siu


Background Consistent and standardized coding for chronic conditions is associated with better care; however, coding may currently be limited in electronic medical records (EMRs) used in Canadian primary care.

Objectives To implement data management activities in a community-based primary care organisation and to evaluate the effects on coding for chronic conditions.

Methods Fifty-nine family physicians in Toronto, Ontario, belonging to a single primary care organisation, participated in the study. The organisation implemented a central analytical data repository containing their EMR data extracted, cleaned, standardized and returned by the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN), a large validated primary care EMR-based database. They used reporting software provided by CPCSSN to identify selected chronic conditions and standardized codes were then added back to the EMR. We studied four chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and dementia). We compared changes in coding over six months for physicians in the organisation with changes for 315 primary care physicians participating in CPCSSN across Canada.

Results Chronic disease coding within the organisation increased significantly more than in other primary care sites. The adjusted difference in the increase of coding was 7.7% (95% confidence interval 7.1%–8.2%, p < 0.01). The use of standard codes, consisting of the most common diagnostic codes for each condition in the CPCSSN database, increased by 8.9% more (95% CI 8.3%–9.5%, p < 0.01).

Conclusions Data management activities were associated with an increase in standardized coding for chronic conditions. Exploring requirements to scale and spread this approach in Canadian primary care organisations may be worthwhile.


Electronic Medical Records; Chronic diseases; Clinical audits; Meaningful Use; Primary health care

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