Enhancing the use of EHR systems for pragmatic embedded research: lessons from the NIH Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


We identified challenges and solutions to using electronic health record (EHR) systems for the design and conduct of pragmatic research.

Materials and methods

Since 2012, the Health Care Systems Research Collaboratory has served as the resource coordinating center for 21 pragmatic clinical trial demonstration projects. The EHR Core working group invited these demonstration projects to complete a written semistructured survey and used an inductive approach to review responses and identify EHR-related challenges and suggested EHR enhancements.


We received survey responses from 20 projects and identified 21 challenges that fell into 6 broad themes: (1) inadequate collection of patient-reported outcome data, (2) lack of structured data collection, (3) data standardization, (4) resources to support customization of EHRs, (5) difficulties aggregating data across sites, and (6) accessing EHR data.


Based on these findings, we formulated 6 prerequisites for PCTs that would enable the conduct of pragmatic research: (1) integrate the collection of patient-centered data into EHR systems, (2) facilitate structured research data collection by leveraging standard EHR functions, usable interfaces, and standard workflows, (3) support the creation of high-quality research data by using standards, (4) ensure adequate IT staff to support embedded research, (5) create aggregate, multidata type resources for multisite trials, and (6) create re-usable and automated queries.


We are hopeful our collection of specific EHR challenges and research needs will drive health system leaders, policymakers, and EHR designers to support these suggestions to improve our national capacity for generating real-world evidence.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Richesson, RL; Marsolo, KS; Douthit, BJ; Staman, K; Ho, PM; Dailey, D; Boyd, AD; McTigue, KM; Ezenwa, MO; Schlaeger, JM; Patil, CL; Faurot, KR; Tuzzio, L; Larson, EB; O'Brien, EC; Zigler, CK; Lakin, JR; Pressman, AR; Braciszewski, JM; Grudzen, C; Fiol, GD

Published Date

  • November 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 28 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 2626 - 2640

PubMed ID

  • 34597383

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8633608

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-974X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1067-5027

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/jamia/ocab202


  • eng