Automated safety event monitoring using electronic medical records in a clinical trial setting: Validation study using the VA NEPHRON-D trial

Clin Trials. 2019 Feb;16(1):81-89. doi: 10.1177/1740774518813121. Epub 2018 Nov 16.


Background/aims: Electronic medical records are now frequently used for capturing patient-level data in clinical trials. Within the Veterans Affairs health care system, electronic medical record data have been widely used in clinical trials to assess eligibility, facilitate referrals for recruitment, and conduct follow-up and safety monitoring. Despite the potential for increased efficiency in using electronic medical records to capture safety data via a centralized algorithm, it is important to evaluate the integrity and accuracy of electronic medical record-captured data. To this end, this investigation assesses data collection, both for general and study-specific safety endpoints, by comparing electronic medical record-based safety monitoring versus safety data collected during the course of the Veterans Affairs Nephropathy in Diabetes (VA NEPHRON-D) clinical trial.

Methods: The VA NEPHRON-D study was a multicenter, double-blind, randomized clinical trial designed to compare the effect of combination therapy (losartan plus lisinopril) versus monotherapy (losartan) on the progression of kidney disease in individuals with diabetes and proteinuria. The trial's safety outcomes included serious adverse events, hyperkalemia, and acute kidney injury. A subset of the participants (~62%, n = 895) enrolled in the trial's long-term follow-up sub-study and consented to electronic medical record data collection. We applied an automated algorithm to search and capture safety data using the VA Corporate Data Warehouse which houses electronic medical record data. Using study safety data reported during the trial as the gold standard, we evaluated the sensitivity and precision of electronic medical record-based safety data and related treatment effects.

Results: The sensitivity of the electronic medical record-based safety for hospitalizations was 65.3% without non-VA hospitalization events and 92.3% with the non-VA hospitalization events included. The sensitivity was only 54.3% for acute kidney injury and 87.3% for hyperkalemia. The precision of electronic medical record-based safety data was 89.4%, 38%, and 63.2% for hospitalization, acute kidney injury, and hyperkalemia, respectively. Relative treatment differences under the study and electronic medical record settings were 15% and 3% for hospitalization, 123% and 29% for acute kidney injury, and 238% and 140% for hyperkalemia, respectively.

Conclusion: The accuracy of using automated electronic medical record safety data depends on the events of interest. Identification of all-cause hospitalizations would be reliable if search methods could, in addition to VA hospitalizations, also capture non-VA hospitalizations. However, hospitalization is different from a cause-specific serious adverse event that could be more sensitive to treatment effects. In addition, some study-specific safety events were not easily identified using the electronic medical records. This limits the effectiveness of the automated central database search for purposes of safety monitoring. Hence, this data captured approach should be carefully considered when implementing endpoint data collection in future pragmatic trials.

Trial registration: NCT00555217.

Keywords: Electronic medical records; automated search; centralized safety monitoring; clinical trial design; safety data validation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Data Accuracy*
  • Databases, Factual / standards*
  • Electronic Health Records / standards*
  • Humans
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Associated data