Office of Research Informatics

VICTR transforms the way ideas and research discoveries move from origin to patients and communities through supporting
translational health research. 
The Office of Research Informatics (ORI) plays a critical role throughout the process.

What problems does ORI solve?

Allow researchers to use the wealth of existing clinical data to inform their projects

Medical centers hold a wealth of information in more ways than one. All the data that’s gathered through clinical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (clinical billing, lab results, physician/nursing notes, radiology images, DNA samples, etc.) is extracted from the clinical space, transformed, and put into a data warehouse. From here, the data are available to approved researchers to use to inform their research projects and informatics methods development.

Recruiting participants (volunteers) for clinical research projects

Patients nationwide want to try new treatments for cancer, their rare disease, or even something as common as diabetes. Often, clinical trials are their only option. The traditional ways to find clinical trials involve a lot of web searches, phone calls, and deciphering complex medical language. Alternatively, research staff may spend countless hours trying to find participants who fit into pretty specific criteria for their trials. ResearchMatch and TrialsToday ease this process and gives patients and researchers contacts with minimal effort.

Capturing information from researchers and research participants

Researchers no longer need to rely on disparate sources to capture information from participants, spending valuable time bringing it all together. Traditional survey platforms often aren’t an option, as researchers need to guarantee data protection and confidentiality to their research participants. Staff from over 5,000 institutions (including non-profit and government organizations) worldwide use REDCap as their secure web application to build and manage online surveys and databases

Streamlining the clinical trial application submission process

Clinical researchers must receive institutional approval for their clinical trials; to protect participants, this process is rigorous and potentially very time-consuming. With VUMC’s home-grown application, this process is streamlined so researchers can get back to what they do best – treating patients.

Infrastructure support for one of the most diverse health databases in history

The All of Us Research Program aims to collect health data from over one million people. With this data, researchers from across the country will be able to accelerate research to find ways to prevent and treat disease. (More detailed information below.)

Application support for the scheduling and billing behind clinical trials

Clinical trials include a lot of logistics – scheduling participants for multiple visits at specific time intervals, verify the right funding source gets billed for the procedures performed, ensuring the correct equipment is available at each study visit…it’s quite a bit to track! Researchers and their support staff rely on programs maintained by developers to track this information and keep their projects running smoothly.

Assist researchers in accessing funds and other resources to support early- and later-career projects

Clinical researchers never have a lack of potential projects in their minds – having the funding and other resources available to do these projects, though, is another story. VICTR has funds and resources available to help researchers get their projects off the ground, and the application process for a host of different resources are all funneled through one program – again, streamlining the process to help keep researchers out of paperwork and in the clinic.

ORI Problem-Solving Case Study

All of Us is a massive research undertaking, working to enroll one million or more individuals to contribute their health data over a number of years. The ultimate goal of All of Us is to speed up health discoveries, enabling individualized health care. 

So, what exactly goes into a program like this?

Recruitment and Enrollment

Recruiting and enrolling one thousand people for a clinical trial can be challenging; how do we accurately do this for over one million people?! While people can easily sign up through the All of Us website, there are also staff at hospitals and doctor’s offices across the country who use an app to capture in-person enrollment data (physical measurements, biospecimen orders). This app not only keeps information collection standardized, it also seamlessly integrates with other systems that use the same information.

Data Curation

So, we have the data for 1,000,000+ people, now what do we do with it? How do we make it a usable product for researchers from different institutions nationwide? Oh, and these researchers are going to want to ask many different questions of the data, want to look at different disease risk factors, want to look at environmental impacts on health…research will pretty much run the gamut. The data need to be combined, cleaned, and de-identified to form one uniform data warehouse that can meet many different needs of many different researchers. 

Having this true wealth of information is groundbreaking territory – 
we truly don’t even know what questions researchers will be able to answer yet. That’s what makes it all the more exciting!