March 11, 2016: Uses of the NIH Collaboratory Distributed Research Network

March 11, 2016: Uses of the NIH Collaboratory Distributed Research Network


Uses of the NIH Collaboratory Distributed Research Network


Jeffrey Brown, PhD, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School


Electronic health data; Distributed research network; DRN; PCORnet; Sentinel, Distributed querying; Common data model

Key Points

  • Advantages of a distributed research network (DRN):
    - Ability to work with analysis-ready datasets
    - Standardized data using a common data model
    - Data stewards keep and analyze their own data
    - Results—not data—are provided to the requestor
    - All activities are audited and secure
  • The NIH Collaboratory’s DRN Coordinating Center (CC) helps requestors understand and use the network. The CC assesses the fit between requests and DRN capabilities and suggests ways to maximize the usefulness of DRN data and resources.
  • DRN data elements include ambulatory care diagnoses and procedures; inpatient diagnoses, treatments, and procedures itemized in hospital bill; outpatient pharmacy dispensing; and laboratory testing and selected results.
  • Three NIH institutes developed a DRN pilot test using publically available Sentinel querying tools. The pilot was informative of the types of queries readily addressed compared with those that require a more iterative process over time.

Discussion Themes

How do you determine the difficulty of a query made to the DRN?

What kind of analyses does using a DRN make possible?

Can billing and clinical data be made compatible for comparison purposes?

It would be interesting to compare results from queries made to different distributed systems.

For More Information

Read more about the DRN and find resources and presentations at the NIH Collaboratory DRN website.

#DistributedResearchNetwork; #pctGR
@PCTGrandRounds, @Collaboratory1, @PCORnetwork