National Health Network Should Be Set Up For Research

The nascent Nationwide Health Information Network should be set up to conduct clinical research, says FasterCures, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank and advocacy group.

The goal of the federally-funded NHIN is to make patient health information available electronically whenever a patient needs health care. This should help doctors provide better care and avoid ordering duplicate services and lab tests.

For more on a related topic, see Expert Voices: Working Together to Improve the Healthcare IT Prognosis at Montefiore

But the NHIN should also be used to identify and verify effective treatments, concludes a report based on a meeting of FasterCures, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Research Resources.

“EHRs [electronic health records] could speed the discovery of new therapies if researchers had access to the data contained in them,” the report said. “However, there have been few opportunities to engage in discussion about ensuring that clinical research is an integral part of an NHIN architecture.”

Carolyn Clancy, director of the AHRQ, warned of tensions between protecting patients’ privacy and contributing their data for research. Nonetheless, the report describes ways to include a research component into the NHIN.

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