Benefits of moving research studies to EHRs 'counterbalanced' by increased burdens

Electronic health records have the potential to help busy practices with interventional research, but transitioning that process from paper to electronic can be more complex than expected, according to a study published this month in eGEMs (Generating Evidence and Methods to Improve Patient Outcomes).

The researchers, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, theorized how the use of EHRs could affect intervention research and make it feasible for busy physician practices. They worked to adapt a particular study, known as the Parent Provider Partnership in Rural Communication (P3RC) Study, from a paper to electronic environment in two pediatric practice-based research networks, one in Colorado and one in Oklahoma.

They found the result to be a bit of a mixed bag.

The EHRs made some aspects of the studies more efficient, such as data collection, data entry and identification of subjects for intervention. However, managing the data and adapting the workflow were more difficult. Moving the study protocol also took more time, effort and money, especially in the beginning, according to the researchers. There were additional issues to deal with, as well, such as the potential of conflicting rules on data ownership and sharing.

"Adapting a paper-based, practice-based research intervention for use in electronic practice environments is time-consuming but possible. Facilitating factors generated by elimination of traditional paper-based workflows are counterbalanced by increased administrative oversight and IT resources needed to operationalize the study. Some of these extra burdens may diminish with time and experience on the part of researchers, oversight, and IT personnel," the researchers concluded.

Other studies have found the transition from paper to electronic records encouraging in some respects, but that EHRs can create challenges and burdens that impede such progress.

To learn more:
- read the study (.pdf)