Researchers warn of inconsistency in asthma data in EHRs

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Researchers from Swansea University Medical School in the United Kingdom and the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research have raised concerns about the quality of asthma diagnoses in patients' electronic health records (EHRs). A study, published in European Respiratory Journal, outlined current practices used to diagnose asthma with suggestions for improvements on standards.

Improving the quality of recorded asthma in patients EHRs starts with clearly outlining the standards to define the condition. The study analyzed 113 research articles for the algorithms used to define asthma, the severity of patient’s conditions and exacerbations from EHRs.

Results showed that 106 algorithms did not have justified validity, which increased the consistency in asthma reporting. The lack of consensus on the definition and outcomes of asthma reporting makes identifying and treating patients more difficult. With the many differing algorithms, researchers caution the reproducibility of research on asthma until a clear set of standards is set.

"This study highlights a long known problem and one that desperately needs to be resolved,” Samantha Walker, director of research and policy and deputy chief executive at Asthma UK. “The data held on electronic health records has the potential to be of great value to asthma research, our overall understanding of asthma development, and development of new treatments. However, wide variations in how asthma is defined and recorded mean that these data sets are difficult to use for these purposes. As electronic health records become more widely used, it is vital to ensure all the information is defined and collected in a consistent manner so that we can have confidence in it. Until this happens we are missing opportunities to understand asthma fully and make improvements in asthma care."