Nottingham leads the world in research using information from primary healthcare

The University of Nottingham is the world-leader in research that uses the analysis of primary healthcare data to drive improvements in primary care, according to a study in the journal BMJ Open.

The investigation shows the University produced the largest number of research publications using primary care databases of any institution in the world and is second in the world for citations.

Three of the School of Medicine ’s investigators are in the top 10 in this field globally; Professor Richard Hubbard for his work in the diagnosis of lung disease, Professor and GP Julia Hippisley-Co x for her ground-breaking work using the QResearch clinical research database to predict risk of serious illnesses, and Professor Joe West who uses population-based databases for the epidemiology of digestive diseases.

Dean of the School of Medicine and Professor of Primary Care, Tony Avery , said: “This study is very revealing as it shows how the size and number of primary care databases in the UK has increased over the past 20 years and how those resources have been increasingly mined for their wealth of useful anonymised patient and healthcare information.

“Database research has been key to many improvements in the handling of major public health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and mental illness – as well as assessing the safety of the medications that can treat these conditions.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Professor John Atherton , added: “Nottingham is proud to be at the forefront of the expanding use of primary care records globally. This report shows how our GPs are not only the main gatekeepers of our health, and the UK’s National Health Service, but are also custodians and providers of a reliable and expanding source of electronic health records.”

The study, Evolution of primary care databases in UK: a scientometric analysis of research output , is the first to examine research output from databases of electronic patient records. 1,891 articles published between 1995 and 2015 were analysed to reveal the historical breadth and growth of this type of research.

The investigators found that the number of published papers involving primary care database research grew from just 7 in 1995 to 171 by October 2015. Researchers from UK, USA and Spanish institutions published the most papers in that period and most of the journals that publish this type of research and most cited papers come from UK and USA.

Six of the top 10 journals publishing primary care database research are in the UK, followed by the USA. The journals which published the most papers were Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, BMJ, British Journal of General Practice and British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. This shows there is great interest from researchers in using data from electronic health records for pharmaceutical research in particular.

This research also highlights how the UK is leading the world in using ‘big data’ to inform medical research and policymaking in healthcare.

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