A study related to heart disease risk conducted in 1994 included a patient sample size of 26,714 participants and took 14 years to complete. An identical study published in July 2012 took three months to achieve the same results – with 959,030 individuals. The difference? Electronic medical records.
A recent article in The Plain Dealer highlights the benefits of EMR systems to medical research. According to the news source, the original study, done in Norway, involved monitoring patients for 13 years. Researchers from MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio were able to replicate those results, but on a much larger scale, while spending a fraction of the time and money as the Norwegian project.
Instead of having to screen and recruit participants and then employ people to track medical statuses for more than a decade, MetroHealth Medical Center researchers were able to use the "de-identified" electronic medical records database set up by Explorys. This way, valuable data was collected without patient confidentiality ever being compromised.
"There is tremendous potential to make discoveries, to improve medical outcomes," Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, told The Plain Dealer. "This allows researchers to really access millions of records very quickly, to see patients who receive care in real clinical settings with diverse demographics and diverse geographical settings."
Hoffman does go on to say that studies conducted by using EMR databases must be done carefully in order to weed out records that are incomplete or flawed in some way so the results are not compromised.
EMR consultants have been working feverishly to help medical practices implement these systems to increase efficiency and overall quality of patient care. The federal government has encouraged digital adoption with financial incentive programs. However, the far-reaching research benefits of such systems are proving to be just as valuable.
Electronic medical records allow healthcare research to be done in a more comprehensive and cost-effective manner, potentially leading to medical advancements that would otherwise take decades to achieve.