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Are Researchers Ready to Use Patient Health Records?

Posted on October 20, 2014 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site ( and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

There’s a groundswell of opinion throughout health care that to improve outcomes, we need to share clinical data from patients’ health records with researchers who are working on cures or just better population health measures. One recommendation in the much-studied JASON report–an object of scrutiny at the Office of the National Coordinator and throughout the field of health IT–called on the ONC to convene a conference of biomedical researchers.

At this conference, presumably, the health care industry will find out what researchers could accomplish once they had access to patient data and how EHRs would have to change to meet researchers’ needs. I decided to contact some researchers in medicine and ask them these very questions–along with the equally critical question of how research itself would have to evolve to make use of the new flood of data.
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Adding Genomic Info to The EMR

Posted on May 15, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Today I read an interesting blog item making the case for including validated genomic test data in EMRs.  The author argues that with the increasing relevance of genomic testing to treatment, it’s critical to offer clinicians access to such data.

As the author notes, some specialties have already begun to tailor drug treatments to individual patients based on their genomic profile.   For example, DNA sequencing of tumors in non-Hodgkin’s and Mantle Cell lymphoma can lead to personalized cancer vaccines that can produce great results, notes writer Gerry Higgins of the NIH.

Such data can also be used for a growing number of clinical situations, such as tailoring Coumadin doses to specific patients and providing psychiatric patients with the appropriate drug.

However, EMRs currently don’t allow for integrating such data, Higgins notes.  To do so, EMRs will need to accept unstructructed data and make it accessible for analysis  via decision support tools.

Until clinicians demand such data, it’s not likely to become a standard part of EMRs.  To date, while oncologists, pathologists and genetics experts are rapidly becoming aware of the value of these tests, the rest of the medical world is just catching up.

But over time, personalized medical treatments like these will become common. To support these treatments,  EMR systems will need to incorporate the tools and the capabilities needed to build on genomic analysis.  If Higgins is right, EMR vendors should get on this right away.