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CHOP Researchers Introduce Data Navigation Tool

October 17, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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A team of informatics experts and biomedical researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have created a software toolkit that aims to help researchers navigate different forms of data.

The software toolkit, called Harvest, is an open-source, interactive framework that helps users navigate quickly among different types and levels of healthcare data from individual patient records to aggregated reports of all patients in a database. The software allows users to query data by different subjects, such as age or ethnicity, individual blood test results or MRIs, or including or excluding specific diagnoses.

The researchers who created it said they decided to focus on end-users, generalizing the toolkit for application to any biomedical study with multiple collaborators. They’ve also allowed for individual software developers and data managers to customize the software for specific projects.

Michael J. Italia, one of the co-authors of a paper introducing CHOP's Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMi) Harvest framework, appearing online Oct. 16 in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, says that the software provides 80 percent of the work, leaving it to any institution's software developer to adapt the framework to a project's needs. Since it is open-source, users are free to see bug reports, check software patches, and share fixes and customizations with a wider community of users.

The researchers say the tool “reflects the growing complexity of research in the Big Data era of electronic health records and genomic technology.” This tool, they say, allows users to formulate and refine questions and explore different views of data.

"Harvest adopts convenient and clear interfaces to view and explore data that are increasingly used in other industries, such as social media," senior author and CBMi director Peter S. White, Ph.D., said in a statement. "We have found that this often helps users to quickly familiarize themselves with data they are seeing, which increases the likelihood that they will trust the resource, and even be incentivized to contribute to the project as it develops."

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