Real-world evidence in pain research: A review of data sources

Brandon K. Bellows, Kuan Ling Kuo, Eman Biltaji, Mukul Singhal, Tianze Jiao, Yan Cheng, Carrie McAdam-Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Outcomes research studies use clinical and administrative data generated in the course of patient care or from patient surveys to examine the effectiveness of treatments. Health care providers need to understand the limitations and strengths of the real-world data sources used in outcomes studies to meaningfully use the results. This paper describes five types of databases commonly used in the United States for outcomes research studies, discusses their strengths and limitations, and provides examples of each within the context of pain treatment. The databases specifically discussed are generated from (1) electronic medical records, which are created from patient-provider interactions; (2) administrative claims, which are generated from providers' and patients' transactions with payers; (3) integrated health systems, which are generated by systems that provide both clinical care and insurance benefits and typically represent a combination of electronic medical record and claims data; (4) national surveys, which provide patient-reported responses about their health and behaviors; and (5) patient registries, which are developed to track patients with a given disease or exposure over time for specified purposes, such as population management, safety monitoring, or research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)294-304
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Databases
  • Observational studies
  • Outcomes research
  • Pain
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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