Background. Comorbidity represents the co-occurrence of pathological conditions in the same individual, and presents with very complex patterns. In most cases, reference data for the study of various types of comorbidities linked to complex diseases are those of hospitalized patients. Such patients may likely require cure due to acute conditions. We consider the emerging role of EHR (Electronic Healthcare Records), and study comorbidity patterns in a general population, focusing on diabetic and non-diabetic patients. Methods. We propose a cross-sectional 10-year retrospective study of 14,958 patients and 1,728,736 prescriptions obtained from family doctors, and thus refer to these data as General Practitioner Records (GPR). We then choose networks as the tools to analyze the diabetes comorbidity patterns, distinguished by both prescription type and main patient characteristics (age, gender). Results. As expected, comorbidity increases with patients’ age, and the network representations allow the assessment of associations between morbidity groups. The specific morbidities present in the diabetic population justify the higher comorbidity patterns observed in the target group compared to the non-diabetic population. Conclusions. GPR are usually combined with other data types in EHR studies, but we have shown that prescription data have value as standalone predictive tools, useful to anticipate trends observed at epidemiological level on large populations. This study is thus relevant to policy makers seeking inference tools for an efficient use of massive administrative database resources, and suggests a strategy for detecting comorbidities and investigating their evolution.
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