Unlocking Data for Clinical Research - The German i2b2 Experience

Appl Clin Inform. 2011 Mar 30;2(1):116-27. doi: 10.4338/ACI-2010-09-CR-0051. Print 2011.


Objective: Data from clinical care is increasingly being used for research purposes. The i2b2 platform has been introduced in some US research communities as a tool for data integration and querying by clinical users. The purpose of this project was to assess the applicability of i2b2 in Germany regarding use cases, functionality and integration with privacy enhancing tools.

Methods: A set of four research usage scenarios was chosen, including the transformation and import of ontology and fact data from existing clinical data collections into i2b2 v1.4 instances. Query performance was measured in comparison to native SQL queries. A setup and administration tool for i2b2 was developed. An extraction tool for CDISC ODM data was programmed. Interfaces for the TMF privacy enhancing tools (PID Generator, Pseudonymization Service) were implemented.

Results: Data could be imported in all tested scenarios from various source systems, including the generation of i2b2 ontology definitions. The integration of TMF privacy enhancing tools was possible without modification of the platform. Limitations were found regarding query performance in comparison to native SQL and certain temporal queries.

Conclusions: i2b2 is a viable platform for data query tasks in use cases typical for networked medical research in Germany. The integration of privacy enhancing tools facilitates the use of i2b2 within established data protection concepts. Entry barriers should be lowered by providing tools for simplified setup and import of medical standard formats like CDISC ODM.

Keywords: Information Storage and Retrieval; Medical Record Systems; Single-Source.