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Electronic records can speed genetic study

EVANSTON, Ill., April 20 (UPI) -- Time-consuming collection of data for genetic disease clues can be done faster and cheaper by mining existing electronic medical records, U.S. researchers say.

Northwestern University researchers say the arduous and expensive process of recruiting thousands of patients to collect such health data can be replaced by gathering patient information already found in electronic records from routine doctor's office visits.

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In a study, researchers were able to cull patient information in electronic medical records at five national sites that all used different brands of medical record software, a university release said Wednesday.

From the gathered information, researchers were able accurately to identify patients with five kinds of diseases or health conditions -- type 2 diabetes, dementia, peripheral arterial disease, cataracts and cardiac conduction. The researchers searched records using a series of criteria such as medications, diagnoses and laboratory tests.

All the patients had agreed to the use of their records for the study.

"The hard part of doing genetic studies has been identifying enough people to get meaningful results," said lead investigator Abel Kho, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern. "Now we've shown you can do it using data that's already been collected in electronic medical records and can rapidly generate large groups of patients."

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