Examining the symptom of fatigue in primary care: a comparative study using electronic medical records

Kathryn Nicholson, Moira Stewart, Amardeep Thind


Background The symptom of fatigue is one of the top five most frequently presented health complaints in primary care, yet it remains underexplored in the Canadian primary care context.

Objective The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence and impact of patients presenting with fatigue in primary care, using the only known electronic database in Canada to capture patient-reported symptoms.

Methods Data were extracted from the Deliver Primary Healthcare Information (DELPHI) database, an electronic medical record database located in Ontario, Canada. Patients were identified using the International Classification of Primary Care, Revised Second Edition coding system. Two groups of patients (fatigue or non-fatigue symptom) were followed for one year and compared. Both descriptive and multivariable analyses were conducted.

Results A total of 103 fatigue symptom patients, and 103 non-fatigue symptom patients, were identified in the DELPHI database. The period prevalence of fatigue presentation was 8.2%, with the majority of patients being female and over 60 years of age. These patients experienced numerous co-occurring morbidities, in addition to the fatigue itself. During the one year follow-up period, fatigue symptom patients had significantly higher rates of subsequent visits (IRR = 1.19, p = 0.038) and investigations (IRR = 1.68, p < 0.001), and markedly high levels of referrals following their index visit.

Conclusions This research used an electronic database to examine the symptom, fatigue. Using these data, fatigue symptom patients were found to have higher rates of health care utilisation, compared to non-fatigue symptom patients.


computerised medical records; computerised medical record system; electronic health records; electronic medical records (EMRs); family medicine; fatigue; general practice; ICPC; International Classification of Primary Care; primary care

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/jhi.v22i1.91


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