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Mining electronic medical records for research insights

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded a second round of grants totaling $267 million to create 28 new centers to assist health-care providers in implementing health information technology.

The funds were part of the $20 billion allocated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help doctors and hospitals make the switch from paper to electronic records.

In addition to trimming national health-care costs, the federal government's push to digitize Americans' medical records may prove to be a boon for biomedical research.

Technology Review reports:

Electronic medical records provide vast amounts of medical information that can be combed automatically and used to ask questions that are too expensive or perhaps unethical to study in traditional clinical trials, such as whether newer, more expensive treatments are more effective than older ones...

...Scientists and physicians are now scouring the growing number of electronic medical records and genomic databases to figure out how to use this vast medical resource to answer a number of questions in medicine, such as why patients can respond so variably to treatment, and how genetics or other factors might contribute to this.

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