A new method of research is becoming more popular in the study of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Most doctors use an electronic health record (EHR) to track patients and their care. Researchers are now using de-identified data from EHR databases to study mesothelioma.
Dr. Wheatley-Price’s team encourages the use of real-word evidence to support treatment choices in malignant pleural mesothelioma.
How the Database is Built
The electronic health record (EHR) has been in use since the 1960s. Some may call it the electronic medical record (EMR). The large majority of hospitals and clinics now use an EHR system to track patients. There are many different types of EHR systems available.
The original purpose of the EHR was to allow a third party to independently verify a diagnosis. Doctor from Hospital A could send the EHR to a doctor in Hospital B for a second-opinion. But the true value of the electronic system is in clinical data management.
Most patient clinical data is available electronically now. Patient information can be de-identified and used to create a larger database. Researchers can use that de-identified database to study mesothelioma treatments.
In this research data, there are no patient names or identifiers. Think of it as a confidential database with information only about the diagnosis, treatment choices, and outcomes.
This larger database can span many years, many patients, and many hospitals. This allows researchers to combine data over time and understand global trends.
Using EHR Databases in Mesothelioma Research
A new article in JTO Clinical and Research Reports used an EHR database. The article printed outcomes from patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
A team from the University of Ottawa reviewed that article. They wanted to draw attention to the study methods. The EHR-derived database is a new study method. But it is becoming more popular.
Researchers love these HER-derived databases for their “real-world evidence.” There are several companies that specialize in this area of data analytics in health.
One company is focused on oncology. They have data from more than 3 million patients with cancer in the United States.
The article critiqued by Dr. Wheatley-Price’s team included 787 patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Limits of Using EHR for Research
The team from the University of Ottawa note that real-world data has limits. In a clinical trial, patient data would be collected in a controlled way. Only the most relevant data would be collected. And the data collected would tell a story – the research story. The data would have context within the research study.
De-identified data from an EHR database does not have the same context. It is not collected in a controlled way. This is not necessarily bad. And it doesn’t mean this data cannot tell a story.
EHR data can be very powerful to study national trends and treatment methods. But its power is limited to the data that is readily available.
Real-world evidence can valid current clinical practice. But it cannot explore new research questions.
The electronic health record is an important source of information for mesothelioma research. And it holds promise for some avenues of research. But there will always be a need for clinical trials to explore new treatment options.
Wheatley-Price, Paul, Sara Moore, and Christopher W. Lee. “The Role of Real-World Evidence to Support Treatment Choices in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” JTO Clinical and Research Reports 3, no. 4 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.jtocrr.2022.100300