Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Fascinating Approach To The Use Of Health IT in Difficult Cases. Worth A Read.

The following interesting article appeared in the NEJM a few days ago.

Evidence-Based Medicine in the EMR Era

Jennifer Frankovich, M.D., Christopher A. Longhurst, M.D., and Scott M. Sutherland, M.D.
November 2, 2011 (10.1056/NEJMp1108726)
Many physicians take great pride in the practice of evidence-based medicine. Modern medical education emphasizes the value of the randomized, controlled trial, and we learn early on not to rely on anecdotal evidence. But the application of such superior evidence, however admirable the ambition, can be constrained by trials' strict inclusion and exclusion criteria — or the complete absence of a relevant trial. For those of us practicing pediatric medicine, this reality is all too familiar. In such situations, we are used to relying on evidence at Levels III through V — expert opinion — or resorting to anecdotal evidence. What should we do, though, when there aren't even meager data available and we don't have a single anecdote on which to draw?
We recently found ourselves in such a situation as we admitted to our service a 13-year-old girl with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Our patient's presentation was complicated by nephrotic-range proteinuria, antiphospholipid antibodies, and pancreatitis. Although anticoagulation is not standard practice for children with SLE even when they're critically ill, these additional factors put our patient at potential risk for thrombosis, and we considered anticoagulation. However, we were unable to find studies pertaining to anticoagulation in our patient's situation and were therefore reluctant to pursue that course, given the risk of bleeding. A survey of our pediatric rheumatology colleagues — a review of our collective Level V evidence, so to speak — was equally fruitless and failed to produce a consensus.
Without clear evidence to guide us and needing to make a decision swiftly, we turned to a new approach, using the data captured in our institution's electronic medical record (EMR) and an innovative research data warehouse. The platform, called the Stanford Translational Research Integrated Database Environment (STRIDE), acquires and stores all patient data contained in the EMR at our hospital and provides immediate advanced text searching capability.1 Through STRIDE, we could rapidly review data on an SLE cohort that included pediatric patients with SLE cared for by clinicians in our division between October 2004 and July 2009. This “electronic cohort” was originally created for use in studying complications associated with pediatric SLE and exists under a protocol approved by our institutional review board.
Much more here (free access):
This just shows how valuable physician EMRs can be in the hands of specialists to address the thorniest of questions. The clinical problem here was very tricky and there was no rule book. What there was, was a system that could provide a chance of getting the best outcome for a young girl with a problem where the text-books - even the big ones - were of no use.
The authors are to be commended for what they did!
David.

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