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Characterizing Adults Receiving Primary Medical Care in New York City: Implications for Using Electronic Health Records for Chronic Disease Surveillance

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prev Chronic Dis
  • Description:
    Introduction Electronic health records (EHRs) from primary care providers can be used for chronic disease surveillance; however, EHR-based prevalence estimates may be biased toward people who seek care. This study sought to describe the characteristics of an in-care population and compare them with those of a not-in-care population to inform interpretation of EHR data. Methods We used data from the 2013–2014 New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC HANES), considered the gold standard for estimating disease prevalence, and the 2013 Community Health Survey, and classified participants as in care or not in care, on the basis of their report of seeing a health care provider in the previous year. We used χ2 tests to compare the distribution of demographic characteristics, health care coverage and access, and chronic conditions between the 2 populations. Results According to the Community Health Survey, approximately 4.1 million (71.7%) adults aged 20 or older had seen a health care provider in the previous year; according to NYC HANES, approximately 4.7 million (75.1%) had. In both surveys, the in-care population was more likely to be older, female, non-Hispanic, and insured compared with the not-in-care population. The in-care population from the NYC HANES also had a higher prevalence of diabetes (16.7% vs 6.9%; P < .001), hypercholesterolemia (35.7% vs 22.3%; P < .001), and hypertension (35.5% vs 26.4%; P < .001) than the not-in-care population. Conclusion Systematic differences between in-care and not-in-care populations warrant caution in using primary care data to generalize to the population at large. Future efforts to use primary care data for chronic disease surveillance need to consider the intended purpose of data collected in these systems as well as the characteristics of the population using primary care.
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