Improving the Quality and Utility of Electronic Health Record Data through Ontologies

Standards 3 (3):316–340 (2023)
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The translational research community, in general, and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) community, in particular, share the vision of repurposing EHRs for research that will improve the quality of clinical practice. Many members of these communities are also aware that electronic health records (EHRs) suffer limitations of data becoming poorly structured, biased, and unusable out of original context. This creates obstacles to the continuity of care, utility, quality improvement, and translational research. Analogous limitations to sharing objective data in other areas of the natural sciences have been successfully overcome by developing and using common ontologies. This White Paper presents the authors’ rationale for the use of ontologies with computable semantics for the improvement of clinical data quality and EHR usability formulated for researchers with a stake in clinical and translational science and who are advocates for the use of information technology in medicine but at the same time are concerned by current major shortfalls. This White Paper outlines pitfalls, opportunities, and solutions and recommends increased investment in research and development of ontologies with computable semantics for a new generation of EHRs.

Author Profiles

Mark Jensen
State University of New York, Buffalo
William Duncan Sharkey
University of Southampton
Demi Hicks
California State University, Bakersfield
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