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S.C. Data Warehouse Launched For Health Research

November 20, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Columbia, S.C.-based Health Services South Carolina (HSSC) has launched its clinical data warehouse (CDW), which links and matches anonymous electronic patient records from South Carolina's largest healthcare systems to enable providers and researchers to follow patient conditions in real-time.

The CDW also allows biomedical researchers to conduct patient-centered outcomes research and comparative effectiveness studies across a much broader and aggregated patient population base. This is the first system of its kind to bring together three major research universities and several large healthcare systems, according to HSSC officials.

HSSC’s members include six of the state's largest health systems—Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center, Palmetto Health, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, McLeod Health, AnMed Health, and Self Regional Healthcare—and the state's largest research-intensive universities—Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina.

Bioinformatics for the system came from the Medical University of South Carolina, while the University of South Carolina developed the operations software. Clemson University hosts and provides patient privacy and security for the CDW.  All participating HSSC member hospitals share their data.

Earlier this year, HSSC began populating the database with historical data from Greenville Hospital System, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Palmetto Health. The database currently contains more than 3.2 million medical records. Data from Spartanburg Regional Health System will be added in 2014. The CDW will eventually have data from all HSSC member health systems.

The Duke Endowment made contributions of over $32 million to HSSC to fund the CDW and other healthcare initiatives, while the South Carolina General Assembly also provided critical support through the creation of the South CarolinaSmartState Program, HSSC officials say.

Jay Moskowitz, Ph.D., HSSC president, said in a statement that the CDW will be invaluable to researchers studying rare conditions that affect underrepresented populations. For example, less than one percent of the population is diagnosed with sickle cell disease, and using data from a single South Carolina health system yields a very small patient population from which to build a potential research patient cohort. 

However, with the CDW, a researcher can triple or quadruple previous sample sizes, expanding queries to include more than 3 million patients across the state.  Researchers in South Carolina now have a better chance of determining the potential success of a given research project and easier ways to build patient cohorts, he said. Moskowitz also pointed to the potential for groundbreaking research on obesity and hypertension, conditions which affect many South Carolinians.

"While the United Health Foundation ranks South Carolina among the lowest states in overall health status, we can now say with confidence that we rank among the highest places in the world with this level of collaboration and this kind of access to knowledge that will improve health for all South Carolinians,” Moskowitz said.

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