i2b2 saves researchers time, energy

Clunky. Arcane. A pain in the, ahem, rear.

It’s surely better than sifting through handwritten notes, as was done in days past, but researchers still have a few choice words when it comes to navigating eRecord.

Fortunately, there’s help in the form of a program called i2b2. The program, which stands for “Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside” was formed by Harvard University’s i2b2 Center, an NIH-funded center for biomedical computing, and integrates with eRecord to allow researchers to more easily navigate the (clunky and arcane) system.

Through i2b2, researchers can query a wide variety of information in the university’s eRecord database — as well as a handful of other local sources including data from Flowcast and HBOC — and get data within a matter of minutes.

Paul Allen, Ph.D.

Paul D. Allen, Ph.D.

“It’s really useful for answering proof of concept questions,” said Paul D. Allen, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy. “When we’re working to set up resident research projects and we want to know, for example, whether there are enough newborn babies here to test for congenital CMV infection, you can go in and ask how many babies were born here in the last year, and it will spit out a number. It’s magic.”

At the CTSI, clinical research informaticist Adam Tatro, M.S., R.N., runs an i2b2 training session every month, where new users can learn the ropes.

Allen said the program has helped tremendously with study design. Recently, his group wanted to know if pediatric patients with the airway disorder laryngomalacia had more severe obstructive sleep apnea than other kids who had undergone sleep studies. Allen’s group searched for kids’ sleep studies, sorting for those with and without the disorder.

“After writing the program to read the sleep study note we answered the question in about 20 minutes – and the answer was no, these kids do just fine,” said Allen.

Additionally, the program is constantly being updated. Recently, it gained the ability to sort by prescribed medications.

“That was a really good update,” said Allen. “The caveat is we don’t know if people actually took the medications, but we can see what’s prescribed after certain treatments.”

Adam Tatro, M.S., R.N.

Adam Tatro, M.S., R.N.

Though many researchers use it to interface with eRecord, the program’s capabilities go beyond that. Christine Annis, senior health project coordinator in the Department of Neurology, is her department’s coordinator for national research studies that come through NeuroNEXT, a network for early phase neuroscience clinical trials, and uses i2b2 to pull data from Flowcast and HBOC.

By querying the various databases, Annis can respond to NeuroNEXT feasibility questionnaires in a short period of time. Site feasibility responses inform the Network as to whether there are sufficient number of specific types of patients available within the Network.

“We are asked how many people have been seen in the last year at the University of Rochester who will meet the proposals criteria, and how many of those seen we think could will enroll in the proposal if it were funded,” said Annis. “I primarily use i2b2 for those two questions.”

Annis has used i2b2 to track down data for 45 different NeuroNEXT proposals, totaling more than 1,000 different queries. By being able to run the queries on her own she does not have to ask other departments to take time out or their busy schedule to run a query on their patient databases.

“i2b2 has saved me so much time,” she said.

For more information on i2b2, contact Adam Tatro at Adam_Tatro@URMC.Rochester.edu

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