Four centres of excellence in electronic health research are to be set up.
A partnership of 10 government and charity funders will establish the centres in London, Manchester, Dundee and Swansea, thanks to an investment of £19 million.
They will open towards the end of the year, with the aim of putting health records at the heart of medical research in the UK.
Each centre will do cutting-edge research which links electronic health records with other forms of research and data.
A range of health conditions will be investigated, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Researchers aim to identify more effective treatments, improve drug safety, assess risks to public health and study the causes of diseases and disability.
Sir John Savill, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, said: “This is a watershed moment for data research and for the Medical Research Council, which I believe will deliver the benefits of e-health research, improving patient care over the coming years.
“The way in which the partner organisations have come together to invest in e-health underpins its importance and will help establish the UK as a world leader in this field.”
Universities and science minister David Willetts said: “Thanks to the NHS and the UK’s world-leading research base, we are uniquely positioned to use patient data to study disease and develop better treatments.
“The e-health centres are the first of their kind and have the potential to revolutionise health research. They will provide a vital insight into conditions affecting millions of people and ultimately bring benefits for patients.”
Andrew Morris, dean of the University of Dundee’s school of medicine and chief scientist at the Scottish Government’s health department, said: “This builds upon over 40 years’ experience of using electronic patient records not only to drive improvements in the quality of healthcare in Scotland but also to innovate in the way we deliver clinical trials and discover the best treatment options for patients and communities.”
The four centres are funded by Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Government Health Directorates), the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Welsh Government) and the Wellcome Trust.