Establishing a National Cardiovascular Disease Surveillance System in the United States Using Electronic Health Record Data: Key Strengths and Limitations

Brent A. Williams*, Stephen Voyce, Stephen Sidney, Véronique L. Roger, Timothy B. Plante, Sharon Larson, Michael J. Lamonte, Darwin R. Labarthe, Bailey M. Debarmore, Alexander R. Chang, Alanna M. Chamberlain, Catherine P. Benziger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Cardiovascular disease surveillance involves quantifying the evolving population-level burden of cardiovascular outcomes and risk factors as a data-driven initial step followed by the implementation of interventional strategies designed to alleviate this burden in the target population. Despite widespread acknowledgement of its potential value, a national surveillance system dedicated specifically to cardiovascular disease does not currently exist in the United States. Routinely collected health care data such as from electronic health records (EHRs) are a possible means of achieving national surveillance. Accordingly, this article elaborates on some key strengths and limitations of using EHR data for establishing a national cardiovascular disease surveillance system. Key strengths discussed include the: (1) ubiquity of EHRs and consequent ability to create a more “national” surveillance system, (2) existence of a common data infrastructure underlying the health care enterprise with respect to data domains and the nomenclature by which these data are expressed, (3) longitudinal length and detail that define EHR data when individuals repeatedly patronize a health care organization, and (4) breadth of outcomes capable of being surveilled with EHRs. Key limitations discussed include the: (1) incomplete ascertainment of health information related to health care– seeking behavior and the disconnect of health care data generated at separate health care organizations, (2) suspect data quality resulting from the default information-gathering processes within the clinical enterprise, (3) questionable ability to surveil patients through EHRs in the absence of documented interactions, and (4) the challenge in interpreting temporal trends in health metrics, which can be obscured by changing clinical and administrative processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere024409
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 19 2022


  • cardiovascular disease
  • electronic health records
  • population surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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