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    EHRs open opportunities for clinical trials, research participation

    Mark G. Weiner, MD, FACP, FACMI, needed patients to participate in a clinical study exploring whether 81 milligrams of aspirin would be a better dosage than 325 milligrams to prevent a second heart attack.

    So Weiner, a primary care physician at Temple General Internal Medicine Associates in Philadelphia, turned to his electronic health record (EHR) system and wrote a computer query to identify the patients who met the specific criteria for the aspirin study, called “Aspirin Dosing: A Patient-centric Trial Assessing Benefits and Long-Term Effectiveness” (ADAPTABLE).

    EHRs are making it easier for physicians to identify patients for clinical trials and share data that could be used by researchers in large-scale population health studies.

    “There increasingly have been more and more opportunities to use [EHRs] for clinical trials, and those opportunities have increasingly gotten more and more sophisticated,” said Peter J. Embi, MD, MS, president and CEO of the Regenstrief Institute, an informatics and healthcare research organization based in Indianapolis.

    Researchers can use and analyze data contained in EHRs to conduct wide-scale population health-type studies, with computer programs segregating data based on study criteria, such as patient gender, age, health conditions, current medications and the like, Embi said.

    That’s a passive use of the data, Embi said, noting that HIPAA as well as other regulatory and institutional privacy regulations restrict the extent to which de-identified data can be used.

    But EHRs also allow doctors to actively engage and recruit patients to participate in research, Embi said, pointing to computer functions that can be added to EHRs alerting physicians about research opportunities.

    Next: Overcoming challenges

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