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Penn study shows how electronic medical records can be used to test drug efficacy
Date:2/6/2009

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- For years controversy has surrounded whether electronic medical records (EMR) would lead to increased patient safety, cut medical errors, and reduce healthcare costs. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered a way to get another bonus from the implementation of electronic medical records: testing the efficacy of treatments for disease.

In the first study of its kind, Richard Tannen, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, led a team of researchers to find out if patient data, as captured by EMR databases, could be used to obtain vital information as effectively as randomized clinical trials, when evaluating drug therapies. The study appeared online last week in the British Medical Journal.

"Our findings show that if you do studies using EMR databases and you conduct analyses using new biostatistical methods we developed, we get results that are valid," Tannen says. "That's the real message of our paper -- this can work."

In January 2009, President Barack Obama unveiled plans to implement electronic medical records nationwide within five years, arguing that such a plan was crucial in the fight against rising health care costs. Of the nearly $900 billion in Obama's planned stimulus package currently before the United States Senate, $20 billion is proposed for electronic health records.

Tannen says he and his group recognized that the large EMR databases containing compiled medical information could potentially give researchers the ability to study groups reflective of the total population, not just those who participate in clinical trials, and circumvent studies too costly or unethical for clinical trials. However, such databases contain observational information, which critics argue do not offer the same level of control as randomized trials.

"Our study cautiously, yet strongly, suggests that enormous
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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