Electronic health records (EHRs) have become indispensable to record and analyze patient health data both at micro and macro levels. At the micro level, a patient can be provided high-quality care due to the quick and remote access to the patient’s records and his/her health can be well-monitored after the encounter and also notified for further health check-ups or upcoming medical needs such as vaccinations. At the macro level, data from electronic health records play a critical role in studying the population’s health trends and analyzing the healthcare requirements in the future. However, it has been observed that EHRs are not being utilized to the optimal level in the area of clinical research.
To understand the use of EHRs in clinical research, we must understand what clinical research is. Clinical research is related to the study of health and illness in people, ways to prevent illnesses and methods of treating various illnesses and it involves human participation to verify the safety and effectiveness of various healthcare tools such as medicines, equipment, and treatment regimens when these are used by people. Clinical research focuses on improving the knowledge of illnesses, diagnoses and new treatments to enhance the quality of healthcare.
As clinical research is involved with the health and wellness of people it needs to conform to various rules and regulations which may pose some challenges such as:
- Approval delays: Healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are tightly regulated and complying with regulations is a big challenge making timely and cost-effective clinical trials and research complicated. Approval delay is one of the top challenges faced by the clinical research fraternity. The chances of the simplest and fundamental steps getting complicated are more when data isn’t recorded and organized correctly.
- Recruitment: Another challenge in clinical trials and research is, recruiting and retaining the right number of participants to complete a trial. Further, depending on the participant access and infrastructure the site selection has to be done.
- Data management: Monitoring the clinical trial sites and capturing the data accurately is critical for clinical trial management. If the data is handled manually with spreadsheet methods, it leads to challenges in updating information quickly and collating data from multiple resources.
In the present scenario where new illnesses and diseases are harming mankind tremendously, it becomes critical to identify the new illnesses and their treatment without much delay. It is here that the role of electronic health records comes to the fore. Although the data collected through EHR systems of various healthcare facilities are being used for the purpose of clinical research for a long time, it is not being utilized effectively. It is understood that with better and optimal utilization of data collected through the EHR systems, organizations and governments can identify health issues in a better way and respond to them with greater efficacy. Moreover, by deriving clinical trial data from electronic health records, the clinical research industry can benefit from cost reduction for direct data entry and on-site monitoring visits and travel expenses.