Electronic Health Record Linkage

When our volunteers joined our studies, we asked if they agreed to us linking to their health records. What can this do for research? Learn more here.

What Electronic Health Records do we have?

Computer with data

Patient data is an essential part of the healthcare we receive from the NHS. These Electronic Health Records (EHRs) are kept securely by the NHS and are routinely updated by the NHS after patient visits. To obtain EHRs for our research, we work with NHS experts to link to the data about our volunteers through the Community Health Index (CHI) number.

There's a vast array of different EHRs, which have been collected for up to 50 years. 

Datasets being used for research under current approvals include:

  • Prescriptions
  • Outpatients
  • General acute/inpatients 
  • Maternity 
  • Mental health
  • Scottish cancer registry
  • National Records of Scotland deaths data

We are in the process of applying for permission to access NHS blood biochemistry records. 

What are Viking Genes doing with EHRs?

We're already working on some fascinating research using some of these data. The EHRs include a highly accurate register of people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with cancer. Entries in this register, which include volunteers from the Orkney Complex Disease Study (ORCADES) and the Viking Health Study - Shetland, are now being studied by our research team at The University of Edinburgh. Working with our other colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, they are comparing reported cases of breast cancer against genetic data in Viking Genes.

They want to study the links between a rare variation in the BRCA1 gene, found in some Orcadians, and breast cancer. The researchers hope to find out information on how much the rare genetic variation increases a person's chance of getting breast cancer or ovarian cancer. The results should further help the planning and delivery of genetic services and treatments by the NHS.

Read a summary of the research at Cancer risk gene variant discovered in Orkney.

If you are a researcher and would like to access summaries of any of our electronic health record information, get in touch with us at viking@ed.ac.uk.