Secondary use of clinical data: the Vanderbilt approach

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The transition from paper to electronic health records (EHR) has led to new opportunities to query data and impact research, clinical care, patient safety, provider accountability, and improved documentation. Vanderbilt University has led the way in developing an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) that is information-rich and spanning over a decade. There are six common themes that are foundational in the EDW development. [1]

Six Common Themes

  • Clinical data reuse for research
  • Data and knowledge management, discovery and standards
  • Researcher support and resources
  • Participant recruitment
  • Patients/consumers and clinical research informatics
  • Policy, regulatory and fiscal matters


There are six platforms that constitute the make up of the Vanderbilt EDW environment.

  • Clinical Enterprise
  • Research data warehouse: the identified data layer (RD)
  • Research data warehouse: the de-identified data layer (SD)
  • Supporting informatics and biostatistical methods development
  • Translations use for the clinical enterprise
  • The research enterprise


Secondary use of clinical data can play a crucial role in the advancement of research initiatives, informatics and bio statistical development and ultimately create evidence-based results to change clinical practice. Patients can benefit from personalized medicine, clinical trial opportunities, and quality improvement programs. Clinicians benefit from optimized workflows. Institutional leadership benefits from increased funding and grants.

Area of interest and comments

A well-structured information system allows for quality improvement. Vanderbilt has been successful in creating an identified and de-identified clinical and research enterprise. This enables tighter data control and enhanced security.

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  1. Danciu, I., Cowan, J.D., Basford, M., et al. (2014) Secondary use of clinical data: the Vanderbilt approach. Journal of Biomedical Informatics. 52, 28-35.