The LCBRU Informatics Platform


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The LCBRU Informatics Platform is a collection of computer programs designed to support translational research within the unit. It will save precious time toward new research by allowing existing clinical data to be re-used for research purposes and by providing links to new sources of data. The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust already records a large amount of information electronically, which would be of huge value to researchers.

To make the most cost-effective use of IT support, the components for the LCBRU informatics platform are predominantly open source software, which means they can be freely used, worked with and improved. LCBRU staff participate in global communities to improve the software and adapt it for new studies. Many components of the LCBRU Informatics Platform were developed initially by doctors and other researchers, specifically to help them conduct research, and then shared with colleagues to improve co-ordination and co-operation. The IT support for research within the LCBRU is implemented by a collaborative team incorporating LCBRU staff, UHL Information Management and Technology and the University of Leicester IT Services. Some of this work is done in collaboration with colleagues in the Data to Knowledge for Practice (DKP) Facility. Hardware to deliver the LCBRU Informatics Platform is hosted both in the UHL NHS Trust and the University IT Services.

The core components of the LCBRU Informatics Platform include:

i2b2 - Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside

The core of our informatics platform is a dedicated research database application called i2b2. i2b2 receives data from patient questionnaires, hospital computer systems like the pathology department database and over a dozen audit databases. Patients who consent to participate in one of our research projects have relevant data stored in one of our i2b2 datasets to allow researchers to investigate patterns of disease, or responses to treatment.

i2b2 is a scalable informatics framework that enables clinical researchers to use existing clinical data for discovery research, developed by the US National Center for Biomedical Computing based at Partners Healthcare Systems / Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA.

CaTissue - Biospecimen Tracking

All the biological samples (blood, tissue, etc) collected in the LCBRU are managed in CaTissue - a biospecimen tracking and inventory tool produced under the US National Cancer Institute's Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (CaBIG) program.

Onyx - Data Collection

Questionnaire data for the BRICCS study is collected using Onyx - a patient interview tool produced by the international OBiBa project, a core project of the Population Project in Genomics Consortium.

REDCap - Research Electronic Data Capture

For some LCBRU studies, data collection is conducted using forms built in REDCap. REDCap is a secure, web-based application designed to support data capture for research studies, providing: 1) an intuitive interface for validated data entry; 2) audit trails for tracking data manipulation and export procedures; 3) automated export procedures for seamless data downloads to common statistical packages; and 4) procedures for importing data from external sources. It was initially developed at Vanderbilt University and is now in use at over 600 institutions in 55 countries.

CiviCRM - Study Management

Our relationship with individual study participants is hugely important to the LCBRU. So we have begun to computerise the job of keeping in touch with all the participants on different studies within the unit, rather than having separate paper-based systems for each study. To do this we are using CiviCRM - open-source Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software. CiviCRM is developed by a non-profit organisation, dedicated to producing great software which serves the public good, which makes it a perfect fit for our research.

In addition to the core components listed above, the dedicated informatics team within the LCBRU support individual researchers with additional tools - from finding and creating software to supporting ID generation, bar code printing, statistics and managing room bookings.

Researchers intending to conduct a project or study within the LCBRU should contact Richard Bramley (LCBRU Systems and Database Architect) on 0116 204 4772 or by email to discuss how the informatics platform can be used to maximise the value of their work.

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