BMC, Boston Health Net, and the BU CTSI are working together to support data science and research focused on people living in the city of Boston. BMC is the largest safety net provider in New England and nearly all of our Community Health Centers (CHCs) are Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs). With BMC’s long history of EHR-based care dating back to 1999 and affiliated CHCs back to 2003, we now have two decades of EHR data. The Epic EHR has been in use at nearly all sites since 2015. We seek to make rich data accessible to researchers nationally, yet protect patient privacy. Promoting health equity is fundamental to our work.

Foundational Systems and Networks

The foundation for our research data systems is the BMC Clinical Data Warehouse (CDW), a repository of all the source data and its translations at BMC, which is most frequently used through expert consultations with data analysts within the BMC CDW. The BU CTSI Biomedical Informatics Core (BU-BIC) technical team regularly extracts data from EHR data in the BMC CDW and transforms them into the “Informatics for Integrating Biology with the Bedside (i2b2)” data system. I2b2 Researchers can use a WebClient, data extracts, new tools and modules (HOME Cell), etc. Once in i2b2 standard format, the data is also available to external research networks. Importantly, the data is de-identified to sets of dates and zip codes, the only limited data identifiers allowed by HIPAA. The de-identified data within i2b2 can be linked to standardized terminologies and connected with other i2b2 installations at research institutions nationally. The BMC and the BU CTSI are currently connected to three national networks.

The ACT Network is a real-time, open-access platform that allows researchers to explore and validate feasibility for clinical studies using aggregated electronic health record data from over 125M patients nationwide. Investigators are able to query the network in real-time and to obtain aggregate counts of patients who meet clinical trial inclusion and exclusion criteria from U.S. sites. The ACT network infrastructure provides a basis for cohort discovery and for developing new informatics tools to identify and recruit participants for multi-site clinical trials.

TriNetX is a cloud-based informatics platform that allows users to analyze aggregate patient populations and facilitate clinical research, study design, and clinical trial recruitment. Investigators at Boston Medical Center and Boston University have access to BMC’s de-identified patient data through a self-service, user-friendly interface and state-of-the-art visualization and analytic functions. TriNetX helps investigators explore patient populations in depth and demonstrate study feasibility in funding proposals and IRB submissions.
For general information and how to gain access to this platform please click here.
For a quick start guide for using TriNetX please click here.

National COVID Cohort Collaborative, or N3C, is an effort that is building a centralized national data resource — the NCATS N3C Data Enclave — that the research community can use to study COVID-19 and identify potential treatments as the pandemic continues to evolve. Specifically, the N3C will enable the rapid collection and analysis of clinical, laboratory and diagnostic data from hospitals and health care plans. If successful, this approach will be applicable to other research questions and may serve as a model for addressing future public health emergencies. The N3C is a partnership among the NCATS-supported Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program hubs, the National Center for Data to Health (CD2H), and NIGMS-supported Institutional Development Award Networks for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR), with overall stewardship by NCATS. Collaborators will contribute and use COVID-19 clinical data to answer critical research questions to address the pandemic.

Boston University CTSI Biomedical Informatics Core (BU-BIC)

The Boston University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Biomedical Informatics Core (BU-BIC) seeks to work with the BU/BMC research community to improve access to and the use of clinical data from BMC, affiliated Community Health Centers, and other research institutions nationally and internationally. We recognize that consultation and advice are often needed by researchers to understand what is available and how to use the rich data and informatics resources within the BUMC community.

The BU-BIC team looks forward to continuing our efforts to support the BMC/BUMC research community through informatics and data. Over the following year, we will continue to develop and promote BU-BIC resources (be on the lookout for newsletters and announcements regarding the latest BU-BIC tools and resources available to investigators), expand the scope and content of local data resources with a focus on social determinants of health and health equity, and promote new BUMC participation in national research data network initiatives.

Starting in July 2020, consultation services are available from members of the BU-BIC Advisory Group:

William Adams, MD Clinical and population health informatics lead.
Manages and promotes i2b2, OMOP, TriNetX, N3C networks
Eric Kolaczyk, MS, PhD  Computational and data science lead, CRC, and
liaison to the Hariri Institute and its Software & Application Innovation Lab
Marc Lenburg, PhD Co-director, bioinformatics lead, CRC bioinformatics liaison
Heather Hsu, MD, MPH Population Health and ACO Analytics lead, data governance
Rebecca Mishuris, MS, MD, MPH  EHR innovation research, ITS-liaison, Epic subject matter expert (SME)
Christopher Shanahan, MD, MPH,
CRITC lead, app and registry SME, addiction informatics SME
Ioannis Paschalidis, PhD  Machine learning, prediction, School of Engineering liaison
Belinda Borrelli, PhD Mobile Health lead technology-based behavior change SME
Adam Gower, PhD  Bioinformatics analytic support, OpenSesame, and GeneHive
Martha Werler, MPH, DSc  Epidemiology and Public Health liaison promotes Optum and other data