Study: EHR Analysis More Effective, Cost Efficient Than Clinical Trials

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The use of electronic health records to identify the best treatment option for patients is more efficient and less costly than the current clinical trial process, according to a study published in the journal Health Technology Assessment, Medical News Today reports.

Study Details

For the study, which was funded in part by the National Institute for Health Research and the Welcome Trust, researchers from several universities in the United Kingdom, used a new computer program in 23 approved general practitioners across England and Scotland.

The first part of the study used 300 patients' electronic health records, which are stored in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and updated during routine medical visits, to monitor the effects of their prescribed treatments.

A second part of the study, which involved 31 participants, looked at the use of antibiotics among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Currently, analyses of treatment options require researchers to organize long and costly trials that involve:

  • Additional staff resources;
  • Extra paperwork; and
  • Regular attendance at appointments.

Study Findings

The researchers determined that they were able to understand health patterns related to specific prescribed medications and determine which treatments were more effective by analyzing EHRs.

They added that the EHR analysis offers a larger and more diverse overview of the general population than current clinical trial methods.

The researchers also noted that using EHRs allows the analysis to be conducted with minimal effects on the lives of the patients, whose involvement in the process stops after their initial consent.

According to the researchers, 26 out of 27 general practitioners who participated in the study expressed strong support for the use of patients' EHRs for research purposes. In addition, 10 patients who were interviewed by the researchers all said that their involvement in trial was an acceptable practice (Medical News Today, 7/14).

Stephen Levinson
In all the haste to glorify "big data" reviews, such as reported in this article, the authors are persistently blind to the fact that these are nothing more than collections of anecdotal reports, compiled by non-standardized and frequently non-compliant electronic records. Such studies fail to meet even the minimal standards of valid evidence under the fundamental precepts of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). Further, EHRs were introduced with the promise that they would promote and facilitate EBM; yet these studies directly contradict the core principles of EBM. At best, such randomly collected statistics might serve as a screening tool to detect areas where controlled, double-blind studies should be performed. BUT EHR "statistics" must not replace valid evidence-based studies, or the results will threaten to undermine the foundations of scientific medicine.

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