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Integrating clinical research with the Healthcare Enterprise: From the RE-USE project to the EHR4CR platform

By El Fadly, AbdenNaji et al.


There are different approaches for repurposing clinical data collected in the Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR) for use in clinical research. Semantic integration of “siloed” applications across domain boundaries is the raison d’être of the standards-based profiles developed by the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative – an initiative by healthcare professionals and industry promoting the coordinated use of established standards such as DICOM and HL7 to address specific clinical needs in support of optimal patient care. In particular, the combination of two IHE profiles – the integration profile “Retrieve Form for Data Capture” (RFD), and the IHE content profile “Clinical Research Document” (CRD) – offers a straightforward approach to repurposing EHR data by enabling the pre-population of the case report forms (eCRF) used for clinical research data capture by Clinical Data Management Systems (CDMS) with previously collected EHR data.

Implement an alternative solution of the RFD–CRD integration profile centered around two approaches: (i) Use of the EHR as the single-source data-entry and persistence point in order to ensure that all the clinical data for a given patient could be found in a single source irrespective of the data collection context, i.e. patient care or clinical research; and (ii) Maximize the automatic pre-population process through the use of a semantic interoperability services that identify duplicate or semantically-equivalent eCRF/EHR data elements as they were collected in the EHR context.

The RE-USE architecture and associated profiles are focused on defining a set of scalable, standards-based, IHE-compliant profiles that can enable single-source data collection/entry and cross-system data reuse through semantic integration. Specifically, data reuse is realized through the semantic mapping of data collection fields in electronic Case Report Forms (eCRFs) to data elements previously defined as part of patient care-centric templates in the EHR context. The approach was evaluated in the context of a multi-center clinical trial conducted in a large, multi-disciplinary hospital with an installed EHR.

Data elements of seven eCRFs used in a multi-center clinical trial were mapped to data elements of patient care-centric templates in use in the EHR at the George Pompidou hospital. 13.4% of the data elements of the eCRFs were found to be represented in EHR templates and were therefore candidate for pre-population. During the execution phase of the clinical study, the semantic mapping architecture enabled data persisted in the EHR context as part of clinical care to be used to pre-populate eCRFS for use without secondary data entry. To ensure that the pre-populated data is viable for use in the clinical research context, all pre-populated eCRF data needs to be first approved by a trial investigator prior to being persisted in a research data store within a CDMS.

Single-source data entry in the clinical care context for use in the clinical research context – a process enabled through the use of the EHR as single point of data entry, can – if demonstrated to be a viable strategy – not only significantly reduce data collection efforts while simultaneously increasing data collection accuracy secondary to elimination of transcription or double-entry errors between the two contexts but also ensure that all the clinical data for a given patient, irrespective of the data collection context, are available in the EHR for decision support and treatment planning.

The RE-USE approach used mapping algorithms to identify semantic coherence between clinical care and clinical research data elements and pre-populate eCRFs. The RE-USE project utilized SNOMED International v.3.5 as its “pivot reference terminology” to support EHR-to-eCRF mapping, a decision that likely enhanced the “recall” of the mapping algorithms. The RE-USE results demonstrate the difficult challenges involved in semantic integration between the clinical care and clinical research contexts.

El Fadly, AbdenNaji et al (2011), Integrating clinical research with the Healthcare Enterprise: From the RE-USE project to the EHR4CR platform. Journal of Biomedical Informatics , Volume 44 , S94 – S102