U.S. Health Data Network a Powerful Tool for Quality

DARTNet, a prototype for data sharing, already gives clinicians access to data on 400,000 patients
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. health care system is on the verge of a new era in which distributed health data networks will assure local control of sensitive individual patient data, while providing medical researchers and policy makers access to powerful aggregate data on millions of patients, according to a pair of articles in the September 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In one article, Judith C. Maro, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues described the attributes and capabilities of a distributed health data network to facilitate studies of comparative clinical effectiveness, distribution of medical technologies, and dissemination of best practices and improved quality of care. The researchers recommended incremental implementation of initial networks with limited datasets to guide development of the most efficient network designs and data model.

In the other article, Wilson D. Pace, M.D., of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues described the development of a possible prototype for this kind of data sharing called the Distributed Ambulatory Research in Therapeutics Network (DARTNet). DARTNet, which focuses on the effectiveness of prescription drugs and medical devices, offers Web access to deidentified records on 400,000 patients and the ability for researchers to generate specific queries.

"Successfully combining the concepts of point-of-care data collection with secondary data analysis of large populations of patients should substantially advance the ability to understand the effects of various medical interventions in routine practice," Pace and colleagues conclude.

Abstract - Maro
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Abstract - Pace
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