Background

Electronic medical record (EMR) systems are a rapidly growing form of documentation that has the potential to improve quality of care, physician and practice efficiency and accessibility of stored medical information. However, the implementation of EMRs has presented administrators, information officers, clinicians, researchers and others within the healthcare arena with many challenges ranging from financial to functionality, accessibility, skills necessary for utilization and the potential for data loss (Fitzgerald et al. 2007). Recent reports have focused on the challenges and expectations surrounding the adoption of EMRs into organizations and the clinical workflow; the time and training required to implement and adopt the software; the emergence of an EMR champion or problem solver; and the readiness of healthcare providers to accept the system (Hersh 2002; Littlejohns et al. 2003; Terry et al. 2008). Understandably, the main focus has been the clinical use of EMRs; however, while their role in supporting research is unquestionable, limited attention has been given to the use of EMRs in research and the implications of those systems on the integrity and quality of research data.

The primary purpose of this report is to present a case study that describes the challenges of data extraction for research studies occurring during an EMR system transition. We summarize the impact of a change in EMR systems on two different research projects that were both highly dependent on EMR data, and conclude with lessons learned to assist others facing a similar EMR system change.