The role of patient records in research: A bibliometric analysis of publications from an academic medical center in Taiwan

J Chin Med Assoc. 2021 May 21. doi: 10.1097/JCMA.0000000000000554. Online ahead of print.


Background: This study aimed to assess the use of medical record items in clinical research in one large academic medical center in Taiwan.

Methods: A descriptive survey design was adopted to collect the data. Articles published in 2018 by Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) staff as the first author were obtained. The types of specialties and types of research were analyzed. To understand the conditions for the use of medical records, the retrospective research using hospital's medical records were analyzed. Each article was read in entirety to realize the use and number of patients and the medical record items.

Results: Among the 362 articles first-authored by TVGH staff in 2018, 219 (60.4%) were classified as clinical studies, 60 (16.6%) as basic studies, 53 (14.6%) as database studies, and 30 (8.2%) as other categories. About 50% of the retrospective research using TVGH medical records had a case number less than 100 (67 cases, 49.6%) with an average number of 41 cases and 13 studies (9.6%) had a case number greater than 1000. Analysis of the number of medical record items used in 135 retrospective research studies based on TVGH medical records showed that 118 (87.4%) used basic patient information. In addition to basic information, notes written by professionals were used most frequently (73 cases, 54.0%), whereas medication information was used in 50 cases (37.0%); laboratory test data was used in 49 cases (36.2%) ; and body measurements was used in 27 cases (20%).

Conclusion: More than one-third of publications utilized medical records, but the patient numbers and record items in use were relatively limited. In the era of digitalization and big data analytics, the potential of medical records in research deserves attention. Investment in establishing a more accessible database of medical records to access nonstructural, descriptive medical records could be considered.