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Using a data entry clerk to improve data quality in primary care electronic medical records: a pilot study


Background — The quality of electronic medical record (EMR) data is known to be problematic; research on improving these data is needed.

Objective — The primary objective was to explore the impact of using a data entry clerk to improve data quality in primary care EMRs. The secondary objective was to evaluate the feasibility of implementing this intervention.

Methods — We used a before and after design for this pilot study. The participants were 13 community based family physicians and four allied health professionals in Toronto, Canada. Using queries programmed by a data manager, a data clerk was tasked with re-entering EMR information as coded or structured data for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), smoking, specialist designations and interprofessional encounter headers. We measured data quality before and three to six months after the intervention. We evaluated feasibility by measuring acceptability to clinicians and workload for the clerk.

Results — After the intervention, coded COPD entries increased by 38% (P = 0.0001, 95% CI 23 to 51%); identifiable data on smoking categories increased by 27% (P = 0.0001, 95% CI 26 to 29%); referrals with specialist designations increased by 20% (P = 0.0001, 95% CI 16 to 22%); and identifiable interprofessional headers increased by 10% (P = 0.45, 95 CI -3 to 23%). Overall, the intervention was rated as being at least moderately useful and moderately usable. The data entry clerk spent 127 hours restructuring data for 11 729 patients.

Conclusions — Utilising a data manager for queries and a data clerk to re-enter data led to improvements in EMR data quality. Clinicians found this approach to be acceptable.



Greiver M, Barnsley J, Aliarzadeh B, Krueger P, Moineddin R, Butt DA, Dolabchian E, Jaakkimainen L, Keshavjee K, White D, Kaplan D; North Toronto Research Network (NorTReN).. Inform Prim Care. 2011; 19(4):241-50.

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