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DOI: 10.2196/11148; PMCID: PMC6434393


BACKGROUND: Electronic health records (EHRs) are ubiquitous. Yet little is known about the use of EHRs for prospective research purposes, and even less is known about patient perspectives regarding the use of their EHR for research.

OBJECTIVE: This paper reports results from the initial obesity project from the Greater Plains Collaborative that is part of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute's National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network (PCORNet). The purpose of the project was to (1) assess the ability to recruit samples of adults of child-rearing age using the EHR; (2) prospectively assess the willingness of adults of child-rearing age to participate in research, and their willingness (if parents) to have their children participate in medical research; and (3) to assess their views regarding the use of their EHRs for research.

METHODS: The EHRs of 10 Midwestern academic medical centers were used to select patients. Patients completed a survey that was designed to assess patient willingness to participate in research and their thoughts about the use of their EHR data for research. The survey included questions regarding interest in medical research, as well as basic demographic and health information. A variety of contact methods were used.

RESULTS: A cohort of 54,269 patients was created, and 3139 (5.78%) patients responded. Completers were more likely to be female (53.84%) and white (85.84%). These and other factors differed significantly by site. Respondents were overwhelmingly positive (83.9%) about using EHRs for research.

CONCLUSIONS: EHRs are an important resource for engaging patients in research, and our respondents concurred. The primary limitation of this work was a very low response rate, which varied by the method of contact, geographic location, and respondent characteristics. The primary strength of this work was the ability to ascertain the clinically observed characteristics of nonrespondents and respondents to determine factors that may contribute to participation, and to allow for the derivation of reliable study estimates for weighting responses and oversampling of difficult-to-reach subpopulations. These data suggest that EHRs are a promising new and effective tool for patient-engaged health research.

Journal Title

JMIR Res Protoc





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caregivers; electronic health record research; engagement; survey


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Research Protocols, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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