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Use of large healthcare databases for rheumatology clinical research

Desai, Rishi J.; Solomon, Daniel H.

Current Opinion in Rheumatology: March 2017 - Volume 29 - Issue 2 - p 138–143
doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000363

Purpose of review Large healthcare databases, which contain data collected during routinely delivered healthcare to patients, can serve as a valuable resource for generating actionable evidence to assist medical and healthcare policy decision-making. In this review, we summarize use of large healthcare databases in rheumatology clinical research.

Recent findings Large healthcare data are critical to evaluate medication safety and effectiveness in patients with rheumatologic conditions. Three major sources of large healthcare data are: first, electronic medical records, second, health insurance claims, and third, patient registries. Each of these sources offers unique advantages, but also has some inherent limitations. To address some of these limitations and maximize the utility of these data sources for evidence generation, recent efforts have focused on linking different data sources. Innovations such as randomized registry trials, which aim to facilitate design of low-cost randomized controlled trials built on existing infrastructure provided by large healthcare databases, are likely to make clinical research more efficient in coming years.

Summary Harnessing the power of information contained in large healthcare databases, while paying close attention to their inherent limitations, is critical to generate a rigorous evidence-base for medical decision-making and ultimately enhancing patient care.

aDivision of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics

bDivision of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Division of Rheumatology, Immunology, and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Rishi J. Desai, MS, PhD, Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 1620 Tremont Street, Suite 3030-R, Boston, MA 02120, USA. Tel: +1 617 278 0932; fax: +1 617 232 8602; e-mail:

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