Medical informatics data unsuitable for research purposes, says study

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According to a study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association,” data contained in most electronic health records (EHRs) is currently unsuitable for reuse in research projects.

While the report highlights the potential for data in medical informatics systems to be reused in clinical research, a lack of standardization is hampering efforts to make use of this information effectively.

Researchers from New York’s Columbia University examined 230 articles that used data contained in EHRs and found that inconsistencies in the information remained an obstacle in most instances. Rather than focus on data quality, the researchers at Columbia chose to analyze the methods used to assess the information’s validity itself.

Data studied in the sample was assessed against five criteria – completeness, correctness, concordance, plausibility and currency. The results of the report indicate that in order to remain useful for research purposes, clinicians using medical informatics systems must pay closer attention to the standardization of data and introduce more rigorous assessment frameworks.

“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,” read the summary of the study.

The results of the report support earlier studies on the accuracy of medical informatics data from a research perspective. Findings of previous papers found that the accuracy of information contained in EHRs varied widely depending on the clinical concepts being studied, with the completeness of data ranging between 44 and 100 percent.

Recommendations outlined in the report included the introduction of rigorous quality assessment methodologies, development of standardized data formats and consistency in the systematic evaluation of medical informatics data.