The reuse of electronic health record data for research is promising, but its quality is not yet standardized enough to be useful, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
The researchers, from Columbia University, studied 230 articles that used EHR data in conducting research, checking for elements such as completeness and correctness to determine the quality of the data used in the research. The researchers found that the studies used different approaches to assess the quality of the data, as well as different terminology for data quality.
They concluded that while EHRs provide easier access to aggregated data and would reduce costs and ineffectiveness in conducting research, the secondary use of the EHR data for research is not yet suitable because of the inconsistencies in the data and its evaluation.
"[I]f the reuse of EHR data is to become an accepted approach to medical research, the clinical research community needs to develop validated, systematic methods of EHR data quality assessment," the authors wrote. "We encourage researchers to be consistent in their discussion of the dimensions of data quality, systematic in their approaches to measuring data quality, and to develop and share best practices for the assessment of EHR data quality in the context of reuse for clinical research."
EHRs have been touted for their use in research to improve population health, for instance in genetic testing. However, the lack of standardization of the data in the medical records--similar to the lack of standardization of EHRs systems themselves, may hamper their overall effectiveness and usability.