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Using a Health System Corporate Data Warehouse for Research: Lessons from the VHA

Gonsoulin M, Zhang Q, Souden M, Hynes DM. Using a Health System Corporate Data Warehouse for Research: Lessons from the VHA. Poster session presented at: American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition; 2015 Nov 2; Chicago, IL.

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"Learning Objectives: (1) Describe the content of the newest and largest data source in the VA. (2) Identify sources of additional instruction about the data warehouse. (3) List the skill sets needed to work with big data and relational datasets. (4) Evaluate whether or not this database is likely to be useful for a specific research project Objective: The availability of "Big Data" presents tremendous opportunities for health researchers. The Veteran's Health Administration's (VHA) Corporate Data Warehouse (CDW) houses national level clinical, administrative and financial data on Veteran health and healthcare. Communities of researchers are starting to ask questions about its content and scope. Our work aims to provide researchers with a sketch of the information available via this data warehouse and illustrate its potential uses for research. Methods: This work describes the content and scope of the VHA CDW. The population represented in the data, temporal range and size of the database, various topical themes found in the data, sources of data documentation, diversity of potential units of analyses and strengths and limitations associated with the data are summarized. Illustrative examples of how these data are used in research and information about how to apply for access to these data are also included. Results: These data can be used to inform studies ranging from the success of a new therapy to the wait times for a specific surgery to the average cost of care provided in outpatient clinics. Furthermore, the sheer volume of data (e.g., 8.49 million Veterans enrolled in the VHA and 86.4 million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2013) available in the CDW offers increased ability to focus on special populations, such as female Veterans or patients undergoing chemotherapy, within the VA. Studies can choose to focus on many varied units of analyses ranging a specific medication to mobile health care units to the patient. Conclusion: The robustness of the CDW data affords researchers a sophisticated view of clinical, administrative and financial data associated with health care provided in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies across the nation. In the VHA, investment in an enterprise-wide data warehouse has already facilitated research on a number of topics and is creating an environment conducive to comparing health services use trends across systems with other health systems' electronic medical record data."

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