EHRs simplify identification of patients for clinical trials

Electronic health records can be a boon to conducting clinical trials and recruiting patients to participate, according to a new study in Health Technology Assessment.

The study, conducted in 23 general practice surgeries in England and Scotland, was conducted to see if it was possible and useful for the National Health Service to use EHRs to help carry out research performed in clinical trials on the use of medicines. Typically physicians wishing to conduct a clinical trial need to complete a lot of paperwork to determine which patients might be appropriate participants in the trials and recruit them, a time-consuming and somewhat ineffective process.  

The researchers carried out two small recruitment trials, one involving 300 people with high risk of cardiovascular disease and another with 31 participants regarding the use of antibiotics in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The EHRs were able to identify which patients could take part in the research "at the click of a button," which greatly reduced the paperwork to recruit them, saving time and money.

"The use of electronic health records in simplifying clinical trials means that we no longer need to remain uncertain about which medicine offers the best health benefits for patients," Tjeed-Pieter van Staa, principal investigator, said in a statement. "This study shows that scientists are able to conduct research which will highlight which treatment is best for patients."

Other studies have suggested that EHRs, with their standardization, speed in identifying potential subjects and ability to harness big data, can greatly improve clinical trials and thus patient care. However, as the complexity of clinical trials continues to grow, EHR interoperability will become even more important.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the study