Research outputs of primary care databases in the United Kingdom: bibliometric analysis

Data collected in electronic medical records for a patient in primary care in the United Kingdom can span from birth to death and can have enormous benefits in improving health care and public health, and for research. Several systems exist in the United Kingdom to facilitate the use of research data generated from consultations between primary care professionals and their patients. General Practitioners play a gatekeeper role in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) because they are responsible for providing primary care services and for referring patients to see specialists.

In more recent years, these databases have been supplemented (through data linkage) with additional data from areas such as laboratory investigations, hospital admissions and mortality statistics. Data collected in primary care research databases are now increasingly used for research in many areas, and for providing information on patterns of disease. These databases have clinical and prescription data and can provide information to support pharmacovigilance, including information on demographics, medical symptoms, therapy (medicines, vaccines, devices) and treatment outcomes.

We examined the number of research outputs from three primary care database, CPRD, THIN and QResearch, assessing growth and publication outputs over a 10-year period (2004-2013) in a study published in the Journal of Innovation in Health Informatics. The databases collectively produced 1,296 publications over a ten-year period, with CPRD representing 63.6% (n = 825 papers), THIN 30.4% (n = 394) and QResearch 5.9% (n = 77). Pharmacoepidemiology and General Medicine were the most common specialties featured.

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