Electronic medical records must do a better job of tracking smoking: Study

Dr. Michelle Greiver

Dr. Michelle Greiver, Lead author and Family Physician

Many patients do not have information on whether they smoke or not in their electronic medical record, according to a new study led by North York General Hospital researchers. The study is the first to track tobacco use with a national Canadian sample of family physicians' electronic medical records.

“By analyzing electronic records, we are able discover patterns in chronic disease so that care can be improved,” says lead author Dr. Michelle Greiver, Department of Family and Community Medicine at North York General Hospital. “Information on smoking entered in electronic medical records could offer new opportunities to help physicians and patients avoid the harms caused by tobacco.”

Man smoking

The study, published in the May 2015 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, tracked data collected on September 30, 2013 from 249,223 patients who were 16 or older and found that a third of Canadians in this sample lacked data on tobacco use in their electronic medical record. See the study abstract.

“We are encouraging family physicians to make  a real effort to record tobacco use,” Dr. Greiver says. “It's a vital piece of information when studying chronic disease in Canada.”

About North York General

North York General is a leader in health information and technology. Through eCare, NYGH became the first hospital in Canada to implement barcode scanning that uniquely identifies each medication and each patient, across all of our medical, surgical and critical care units. This milestone reduced the risk for potential medication errors by alerting health care providers when administering a medication.

NYGH is also the first hospital in Canada to implement a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system that includes the latest evidence and best practices from medical literature, providing physicians with this information when they develop a patient's treatment plan.

Our hospital is one of only three hospitals in Canada to have a Stage 6 designation from HIMSS Analytics (the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) because of our eCare strategy.

NYGH is on its way to a Stage 7 designation, which is where all patient charts are completely electronic. This allows a hospital to share important information with the patient's family doctor, family health team and Community Care Access Centre, ensuring the right follow-up care is available promptly to any patient when they leave the hospital.


This article first appeared in the June 2015 issue of The Pulse.

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