Presumably standards for sharing electronic medical records will eventually allow virtual clinical trials, for example, researchers will identify patients satisifying specified characteristics based on shared medical records and compare the outcomes by treatment regimen. The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the NCI collects and distributes cancer incidence and survival data from cancer registries (representing about 14% of the U.S. population at the time of writing). Medicare records provide information about treatment claims for health care services. By linking these two datasets into the SEER-Medicare Linked Database,49,50 investigators can evaluate diagnosis and treatment methods without having to recruit patients. More than 100 publications have made use of the SEER-Medicare database. For example, Potosky et al.51 used the SEER-Medicare-linked database to assess reasons for a dramatic rise in prostate cancer incidence.

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