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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2003 Jul-Aug;10(4):389-98. Epub 2003 Mar 28.

Structure, functions, and activities of a research support informatics section.

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Health Care Data & Epidemiology Section, Regenstrief Institute for Health Care, 1050 Wishard Boulevard RG-6, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.


The authors describe a research group that supports the needs of investigators seeking data from an electronic medical record system. Since its creation in 1972, the Regenstrief Medical Records System has captured and stored more than 350 million discrete coded observations on two million patients. This repository has become a central data source for prospective and retrospective research. It is accessed by six data analysts--working closely with the institutional review board--who provide investigators with timely and accurate data while protecting patient and provider privacy and confidentiality. From January 1, 1999, to July 31, 2002, data analysts tracked their activities involving 47,559 hours of work predominantly for physicians (54%). While data retrieval (36%) and analysis (25%) were primary activities, data analysts also actively collaborated with researchers. Primary objectives of data provided to investigators were to address disease-specific (35.4%) and drug-related (12.2%) questions, support guideline implementation (13.1%), and probe various aspects of clinical epidemiology (5.7%). Outcomes of these endeavors included 117 grants (including 300,000 US dollars per year salary support for data analysts) and 139 papers in peer-reviewed journals by investigators who rated the support provided by data analysts as extremely valuable.

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