Participant recruitment is an important process in successful conduct of randomized controlled trials. To facilitate enrollment into a National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trial involving patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), we developed and prospectively validated an automated electronic screening tool based on boolean free-text search of admission notes in electronic medical records. During a 2-week validation period, all patients admitted to prespecified general medical services were screened for eligibility by both the electronic screening tool and a COPD nurse. Group discussion was the gold standard for confirmation of true-positive results. Compared with the gold standard, electronic screening yielded 100% sensitivity, 92% specificity, 100% negative predictive value, and 72% positive predictive value. Compared with traditional manual screening, electronic screening demonstrated time-saving potential of 76%. Thus, the electronic screening tool accurately identifies potential study subjects and improves efficiency of patient accrual for a clinical trial on COPD. This method may be expanded into other institutional and clinical settings.
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