Study: There are limits to using EHR data for epidemiologic research

In recent years, medical researchers have turned to EHR data for analysis, rather than constructing original data sets through traditional research methods.

To investigate this trend, a team of researchers — led by Faraz S. Ahmad, MD, in the divisions of epidemiology and cardiology at Chicago-based Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine — sought to evaluate whether EHRs and cohort studies described the same patient outcomes.

In a recent study in Circulation, the research team compared patient data from 802 individuals on HealthLNK, a database of EHRs from six Chicago health systems, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, a community-based cohort, to evaluate agreement between the data sources.

The researchers found agreement between the two datasets varied by health outcome. They determined agreement was low for systolic blood pressure, but high for body mass index. The concordance rates for myocardial infarctions (41.7 percent), strokes (61.5 percent) and heart failures (62.5 percent) varied, as well.

"These findings illustrate the limitations and strengths of electronic data repositories compared with information collected by traditional standardized epidemiologic approaches for the ascertainment of CVD risk factors and events," the study authors concluded.

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