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URMC / Clinical & Translational Science Institute / Stories / October 2021 / UR CTSI Offers Safer, More Secure Way to Share, Analyze Patient Data

UR CTSI Offers Safer, More Secure Way to Share, Analyze Patient Data

SERDA logo, tagline: Moving clinical research forwardStarting in November, the UR CTSI will offer a new, more secure and convenient way for researchers across the University of Rochester to access and analyze data containing protected health information (PHI). The Secure Environment for Research Data Analytics (SERDA), offers a virtual collaborative workspace with free select analytical tools and secure data storage and backup to help researchers work with data and comply with federal data privacy laws.

SERDA was developed as part of a larger collaborative project between the UR CTSI and University of Rochester Medical Center Information Systems Division. Over the past few years, they have been building a data ecosystem at URMC that improves both the security and accessibility of patient data for research. With funding from URMC, this project is an example of the university’s investment in research infrastructure.

“Keeping patient data secure is absolutely our top priority,” said UR CTSI Co-Director Martin Zand, M.D., Ph.D., who sponsored the project, “but it’s also essential for researchers to be able to safely and securely access that data to develop new insights and new therapies or interventions that benefit those patients.”

SERDA is free to use and researchers can access it right from their own desktops. But it also provides far greater data security than previous systems, which protects both patients and researchers.

Without secure systems in place, PHI breaches can happen to anyone. Laptops, smartphones and USB devices can be stolen, and anyone can be the target of malware or ransomware attacks. When they happen, PHI breaches can damage a researcher’s reputation and limit their career advancement opportunities.  

To avoid breaches, SERDA does not allow any data containing PHI to be downloaded or shared outside the system. But it also makes it easy for researchers to collaborate and share that data securely within the system. No more data scattered across email, box, etc. It’s all right in the system alongside the software needed to analyze it. Because it is centralized, the data also will not get lost when study team members leave the team. 

SERDA does allow researchers to download de-identified data and analysis results and offers some new features that our old process could not support, like the ability to dynamically refresh data from e-Record for your studies and analyses. The system is more convenient and easy to use and each environment can be tailored to your study and/or team’s computational performance needs over time.

By providing these things at no cost – and just when researchers need them – the UR CTSI hopes to make it easier for researchers at all career stages to access clinical data and advance clinical research.

To learn more about how you can use SERDA, contact

Michael Hazard | 10/29/2021

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