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EHRs Supporting More Clinical Research

April 11, 2011
by David Raths
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Vendors describe creation of clinical trials networks

The life sciences industry spends more than $30 billion a year on clinical trials in the U.S., yet nearly 90 percent of trials fail to meet their timelines or budgets, researchers say. The rapid increase in the deployment of electronic health records (EHRs) is starting to help researchers identify potential participants in clinical trials.

Speaking at the first annual PharmEHR Summit in Philadelphia on April 7, Steve Schwartz, senior vice president of corporate business development at Chicago-based EHR vendor Allscripts, described the creation of the Allscripts Clinical Trials Network (ACTioN), an effort to help its customers get involved in research. Allscripts collaborates with contract research organizations and life science companies to better target recruitment and help them be more efficient in research design setup. “We have 8,500 providers and 1,000 investigators participating, Schwartz said.

Researchers can search a centralized data repository to access a snapshot of each practice’s research experience, including how many studies they have participated in and how many investigators they have on staff. Using a filtering tool called RecruitAssist, they can run a query against de-identified data in EHRs to assess how many qualified candidates there might be. Schwartz recalled that when Allscripts first built the data warehouse, it worked with a company researching a rare hematology condition. It had taken the company more than a year to identify 19 potential patients for a clinical study. “Using our warehouse, in 15 minutes they were able to identify 143 potential patients in 37 medical groups,” he said.

Aidan Farrell, a strategic marketing leader for GE Healthcare, described the clinical trials services his company offers, including research design feasibility support and patient identification.

Using its data warehouse, GE Healthcare can provide information to research sites on patients who appear to be candidates for specific clinical trials based on eligibility criteria, said Farrell, a former executive of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. He noted that conceptually it is a good idea to provide physicians with alerts about clinical trials at the point of care, “but only if you present a manageable number of trials. You don’t want to create alert fatigue,” he noted. But the granularity of the EHR data allows organizations to filter down to a small number of studies. Another possibility, he added, is that instead of pushing reminders to physicians, you allow them to pull it in by clicking on a tab labeled “Check on clinical trials.”

PDR Network, publisher of the Physician’s Desk Reference, hosted the two-day PharmEHR Summit. It brought together executives from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, EHR vendors, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies to discuss the impact of EHR adoption on drugs and devices from a regulatory, liability and marketing perspective.