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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / January 2017 (1) / Speeding Clinical Data to Our Researchers

Speeding Clinical Data to Our Researchers

Clinical researcher handling digital patient dataClinical researchers often need to gather medical information about study volunteers – a process that is long and arduous. The University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute recently devised a way for researchers to access, sort, and export clinical data quickly and efficiently by bridging two existing and unrelated software programs.   

The bridging program, called ““i2b2 to REDCap” or REDCap-i2b2 integration (REDI), gives researchers the ability to not only extract Electronic Health Record (EHR) data, but to export it to other programs for analysis and secure storage. Prior to the release of this program in 2013, researchers could sort patient data with the Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2) program, but would have to manually transfer that data to REDCap, URMC’s preferred program for secure storage of patient data. Further, the original functionality of i2b2’s export tools imposed limitations on what could be exported and how it could be exported.

Manual data transfer is a tedious and imprecise process that may impose barriers on the type and size of research questions that could be pursued. “I2b2 to REDCap” fast-tracks the data capture process, allowing researchers to make new discoveries faster. 

i2b2 was developed at Harvard University as a study feasibility tool. It essentially counts patients that meet certain study criteria – for example patients who had a heart attack in the past five years and are taking specific blood pressure medications.  Naturally, once researchers could see this data, they wanted to be able to export and analyze it, but i2b2 does not have that capability.

REDCap, on the other hand, is URMC’s preferred software for secure storage of clinical data. It was originally designed to capture live data from clinical research studies and export that data to other programs for analysis.

“So we had i2b2, we had REDCap. They have nothing to do with each other and weren't ever intended to,” says David Pinto, R.N., clinical research informaticist and coordinator of the EHR Cluster in the CTSI Informatics Core. “The genius is that we connected the two.”

Since Philip Ng, programmer analyst for URMC Information Systems, built “i2b2 to REDCap”, many URMC researchers have been able, for the first time, to pull EHR data into REDCap, using i2b2 as a conduit.

Of course with this new capability comes some risk. The University has taken measures to protect and secure patient data and confidentiality. Prior to using “i2b2 to REDCap”, researchers must get proper approval from the Research Subjects Review Board (RSRB), with Pinto acting as an honest broker to  ensure researchers only export data as prescribed in their RSRB-approved protocols.

Pinto also requires a one-on-one training to teach researchers how to use the tool. To find out more or schedule a training session, contact the CTSI Research Help Desk or email

Michael Hazard | 1/25/2017

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