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Information Resources & Technologies

Our information technology experts' knowledge and experience helps us produce reliable data sets—and makes our research more efficient.

 GHRI Data Architect Roy Pardee, MA, JD


Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) staff can access and analyze decades of high-quality data on nearly 3.5 million Group Health members and former members. GHRI also collaborates with many other large health-related research organizations, allowing study teams to combine populations for statistical power and diversity. With decades of experience in multi-site research projects, GHRI’s programmers and other staff members have developed special expertise at integrating and analyzing information from multiple health care plans and data systems.

Databases and programming

Group Health has a wealth of automated data available for research use, including administrative data such as insurance claims and health plan enrollment records, as well as patient care data from pharmacy, laboratory, hospital, and other systems. The ability to combine health care utilization data with information on medical coverage allows GHRI researchers to report with confidence on patients’ complete health care experience.

Group Health data are stored on Microsoft Windows Server, UNIX, Sybase, Oracle, and Teradata systems. An individual program can pull information from multiple systems and move it into the local Windows environment for analysis.

GHRI programmers regularly use SAS, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Visual Studio.NET. Their recent work also draws from the free and open-source software community and includes tools for natural language processing, de-identifying textual data, and collaborative efforts with research partners on distributed computing networks.
Our staff’s familiarity with Group Health data and information systems results in short study startup times; high-quality, reliable data sets; and overall efficiency.

Medical records

Group Health’s electronic health record (EHR) enables targeted study recruitment, efficiently identifying potential participants based on age, sex, diagnosis, procedures, and other characteristics.

The Institute's medical-record reviewers are highly trained to abstract data from these records, following strict scientific protocols, ensuring data integrity, and protecting data security. They are also trained to protect patient privacy and confidentiality by following Group Health's standard policies and procedures for handling patient records.

Group Health patient care information is stored in Epic electronic health records (EHR). Reviewers also have access to a wealth of historic non-computerized medical charts that can be mined for diagnoses and medical history. Together, these resources provide an unequalled opportunity for health research and evaluation.

GHRI protects and manages researchers’ access to the Group Health population, ensuring that potential study participants are not over-surveyed.


Learn more

From Group Health Research Institute

See Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, on “big data”