How to Extract Data From Electronic Health Records (EHR)

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If you're like most aesthetic providers, you likely feel inundated with data. 

Patient records, lab results, consent forms - it's a constant stream of information flooding your EHR. But how can you actually use this data to gain insights to improve your practice? That's where data extraction comes in.

At Calysta EMR, we know the challenges of sifting through mounds of data to find those valuable nuggets of insight. But it doesn't have to be so hard. With the right techniques, you can tap into your EHR as a goldmine of knowledge to guide better clinical and business decisions.

In this post, we'll explore simple ways you can extract data from your EHR and start leveraging it effectively.

What are Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?

a medical doctor using emr

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) refer to the digital version of patient medical information that is maintained by a healthcare provider or facility. 

EMRs contain the standard medical data gathered in a provider's office, such as the patient's medical history, examination notes, diagnoses, medications, vital signs, immunizations, radiology reports and laboratory data. The EMR is used by healthcare professionals within a provider organization and is the legal record of a patient's care.

What is the purpose of electronic medical records?

By transitioning from paper to electronic records, EMRs aim to improve overall quality of care, increase coordination between healthcare providers, reduce medical errors, improve efficiency and reduce costs in the healthcare system.

Understanding Data in EHRs

What is EMR data?

EMR data refers to all of the information contained within a patient's electronic medical record. This includes structured data fields for demographics like name, date of birth, address, phone number and insurance details. It also includes medical data such as:

  • Provider notes about patient visits, symptoms, diagnoses and medical history.
  • Medication names, dosages, frequencies and instructions.
  • Laboratory test orders and results.
  • Radiology and imaging procedure orders and results.
  • Vital sign measurements such as blood pressure, heart rate, weight and height.
  • Care plans and treatment instructions.
  • Billing and insurance codes.

EMR data provides a comprehensive view of a patient's health and healthcare longitudinally. This data can be used by providers for clinical care and by researchers/analysts to derive insights.

What types of data can be extracted from patient medical records?

Many types of meaningful data can be extracted from patient EMRs. Some are listed in the table below:

Type of DataExamples
Demographicsage, gender, race, ethnicity, marital status, language, employment, etc.
Vital Signsblood pressure, temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, height, weight, BMI, etc.
Diagnosesmedical conditions, mental health diagnoses, injuries, etc.
Lab Resultscholesterol levels, blood glucose, liver function tests, cultures, etc.
Medicationsnames, dosages, frequencies, dates started/stopped
Medical Historyfamily history, surgical history, health risks like smoking, allergies
Genomicsfamily history, genetic test results
ImagingX-rays, CT scans, MRI results and images
Billing CodesCPT, ICD-10 diagnosis codes, cost and insurance data
Provider Notessummaries of visits, symptoms, advice given
Care Plansdiet, exercise, medications to manage conditions

Pinpoint Your Goals

First, clarify what you want to learn from your data. Are you looking to identify gaps in care? Improve patient satisfaction? Reduce inefficiencies? 

Understanding your goals guides what data you'll need to extract. Maybe you want to analyze patient wait times or how treatment plans impact outcomes over time. Defining these questions upfront provides direction.

Identify Meaningful Data Points

Next, determine what specific data fields relate to your goals. These might include things like:

  • Patient demographics - age, gender, location
  • Dates of visits
  • Treatments and procedures
  • Billing codes
  • Prescriptions
  • Lab orders and results
  • Patient satisfaction surveys

Think broadly about what data elements could provide insights. You can then target extraction specifically on these high-value data points.

Use Built-in EHR Tools

Many EHRs provide built-in reporting tools to export data. For example, Calysta EMR offers one-click reporting features to easily export datasets into formats like CSV and Excel for further analysis. This can be a simple way to access and manipulate your data offline.

Here are some other tools that are used to extract data:

  • Web scrapers - Build custom scrapers with Python (Beautiful Soup, Scrapy), R (rvest), Node.js (Puppeteer) or tools like ParseHub and
  • Browser extensions - Easy data extraction using apps like Data Miner, Scraper or Web Scraper for Chrome and Firefox.
  • HTML parsers - Analyze raw HTML and extract data with Python's HTMLParser, Java's JSoup or PHP Simple HTML DOM.
  • Converters - Convert site data into tables with tools like Diggernaut, Table Capture and DataTables.
  • Automated crawlers - Crawl large sites systematically using software like Octoparse, Mozenda and Kapow.
  • Commercial SaaS - Web scraping services with intuitive GUIs like ScrapeStorm, ScraperAPI and ScrapingBee.
  • XPath/CSS selectors - Extract data by defining element selectors in Python/R libraries or apps like Helium.

Leverage APIs for Automation

If you're technically inclined, use application programming interfaces (APIs) to systematically and programmatically pull data from your EHR. Tools like Python scripts allow automating extraction for large datasets with custom parameters.

Aggregate Data Thoughtfully

When analyzing extracted EHR data, carefully consider how to aggregate it meaningfully. Group patients by age range, gender, location or other attributes that may reveal trends. Look at treatments and outcomes by department, provider or time periods. Thoughtful segmentation exposes insights.

Maintain Patient Privacy

Lastly, be sure to de-identify sensitive patient information and securely store extracted data to maintain privacy and meet regulations. Ethics come first

The Right Insights, Within Reach

a medical doctor checking health records

Tapping your EHR data doesn't need to be painful. With Calysta EMR, you can easily access and analyze the information to gain insights that fuel practice growth and better patient care. Let us help you maximize your most valuable asset - your data.

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