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Using Epic for Research at Johns Hopkins: Tips and Resources

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Using Epic for Research at Johns Hopkins: Tips and Resources

Using Epic for Research at Johns Hopkins: Tips and Resources
Karen Nitkin

Date: 05/08/2019

The Epic electronic medical records system holds information on about 5 million Johns Hopkins patients, making it an indispensable resource for all kinds of clinical research.

But many researchers do not know all the ways Epic can be used to collect and then extract the data they need for their studies. The key, experts say, is to create an optimal data collection system at the start of the study, so that the information is easy to use later.

Many tools and resources are available to help Johns Hopkins researchers use Epic efficiently, while protecting patient information. At a recent talk organized by the  Institute for Clinical and Translational Research Informatics Core, Johns Hopkins experts discussed some of those resources and offered advice for researchers.

Getting Started

The Research Home Dashboard contains research-specific information, such as training content, Epic upgrade news and links to research websites. Researchers can save any Epic report as a favorite for quick access from the dashboard.  

Research coordinators automatically see this dashboard as their default view when they log into Epic. Research clinicians can add it to their Favorite Dashboards.

The Research “Active” indicator, seen at the top of the screen within the patient’s header, has a hyperlink that, when clicked, shows all the studies in which the subject is actively participating. Additional information about the study, such as the principal investigator and study team members, is also available here.

Participating patients must be registered with the Clinical Research Management System (CRMS), a web-based tool that holds information about Johns Hopkins studies and their participants.

To further communicate research information across Epic, clinical research orders and research-related visits should be linked to the research study. This creates a blue flask icon next to the order or encounter within Chart Review and serves as a visual guide to quickly locate the orders and visits.

Epic also provides a variety of notifications to the study team, showing, for example, when a study participant is seen in the ED or as an inpatient admission. These alerts can be turned off if desired.

Recruiting Patients

Once the Institutional Review Board has approved using Epic as an approved data source, Best Practice Advisories can be configured by the Program to Accelerate Clinical Research Using Epic (PACE) team to identify patients who are suitable for studies. Additionally, the ICTR offers Epic MyChart recruiting services.

Getting Research Data from Epic

There are multiple ways to get de-identified research data from Epic. The Reporting Workbench can be used — with approval from the Epic Research Request Review Committee chaired by Stuart Ray — to generate real-time research reports, although it is not robust enough for complex data queries, says Diana Gumas, senior director for Clinical Research Information Technology in the ICTR.

Epic SlicerDicer lets physicians conduct self-service searches on large patient populations to get rough patient counts to investigate a hunch, and then adjust their searches quickly to better understand their patient populations. However, it does not access all the information in Epic and is rarely appropriate as the sole source of data for a study, says Gumas.  

To see a 90-minute ICTR presentation about using Epic for research, click here