Increasing layers of bureaucracy, based on European laws, have made it harder for researchers to access patient records and have increased the costs of conducting clinical trials.
Researchers have been calling on the government to allow them to use patient-identifiable data without the consent of the patient to help overcome these problems.
But a DoH consultation, involving 1,598 respondents, found that only 46% of patients want to see their data used for research without their consent.
The DoH will now set up a number of pilots in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Birmingham and Nottingham, which will explore means of patients opting out of having their records viewed for research purposes.
A decision on the preferred mechanism will be made by the DoH by June 2010.