Standardization of Questions in Rare Disease Registries: The PRISM Library Project

Interact J Med Res. 2012 Oct 10;1(2):e10. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.2107.


Background: Patient registries are often a helpful first step in estimating the impact and understanding the etiology of rare diseases - both requisites for the development of new diagnostics and therapeutics. The value and utility of patient registries rely on the use of both well-constructed structured research questions and relevant answer sets accompanying them. There are currently no clear standards or specifications for developing registry questions, and there are no banks of existing questions to support registry developers.

Objective: This paper introduces the [Rare Disease] PRISM (Patient Registry Item Specifications and Metadata for Rare Disease) project, a library of standardized questions covering a broad spectrum of rare diseases that can be used to support the development of new registries, including Internet-based registries.

Methods: A convenience sample of questions was identified from well-established (>5 years) natural history studies in various diseases and from several existing registries. Face validity of the questions was determined by review by many experts (both terminology experts at the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and research and informatics experts at the University of South Florida (USF)) for commonality, clarity, and organization. Questions were re-worded slightly, as needed, to make the full semantics of the question clear and to make the questions generalizable to multiple diseases where possible. Questions were indexed with metadata (structured and descriptive information) using a standard metadata framework to record such information as context, format, question asker and responder, and data standards information.

Results: At present, PRISM contains over 2,200 questions, with content of PRISM relevant to virtually all rare diseases. While the inclusion of disease-specific questions for thousands of rare disease organizations seeking to develop registries would present a challenge for traditional standards development organizations, the PRISM library could serve as a platform to liaison between rare disease communities and existing standardized controlled terminologies, item banks, and coding systems.

Conclusions: If widely used, PRISM will enable the re-use of questions across registries, reduce variation in registry data collection, and facilitate a bottom-up standardization of patient registries. Although it was initially developed to fulfill an urgent need in the rare disease community for shared resources, the PRISM library of patient-directed registry questions can be a valuable resource for registries in any disease - whether common or rare.

Trial registration: N/A.

Keywords: Patient registries; data standards; metadata; rare diseases.