Randomised studies in general practice: how to integrate the electronic patient record

Georgio Mosis, Bart Koes, Jeanne Dieleman, Bruno Stricker, Johan VanDerLei, Miriam Sturkenboom


The 'randomised database study' strategy was first proposed in 1997, with the aim of combining the generalisability of observational database studies based on electronic patient records (EPRs) with the validity of randomised clinical trials (RCTs). The key feature was to randomly assign treatments and to use routine care data, as available in the observational database, for patient identification and follow-up. To our knowledge, however, the idea of the randomised database study has not been implemented yet.
The conduct of a randomised study in an observational database requires adjustments to methods of medical information processing in the general practice. We developed a software system that facilitates the conduct of an RCT with observational databases based on EPRs. It identifies eligible subjects and presents them one by one to the physician once their EPR is accessed. The general practitioner can then start an interactive recruitment process; after completion, the computer randomises the patients. Follow-up is documented by normal routine care in the EPR.
Although the randomised database study has many methodological advantages, it has never been tested. Our software system is meant as a tool to implement and facilitate evaluation of the randomised database approach.


electronic patient record (EPR); observational study; pragmatic; randomised clinical trial

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14236/jhi.v13i3.599


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