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When Does Size Matter? Promises, Pitfalls, and Appropriate Interpretation of “Big” Medical Records Data

Abstract

The growth of electronic health records has facilitated passive collection of large quantities of computerized medical data and the use of these datasets for medical research. However, enthusiasm about the impressive size and availability of these datasets should not diminish awareness of their weaknesses; as with all research, it is essential to draw careful conclusions that are well supported by the data. This editorial gives an overview of big electronic health record data, reviews their potential strengths for medical research, and outlines five common pitfalls with recommendations on how they can be mitigated.