April 18, 2021

The Journey to a Common Data Model in an Academic – Regional Health System Partnership:

In 2019, Saint Louis University (SLU) funded the development of the Advanced Health Data (AHEAD) Institute with the primary vision of building a Virtual Data Warehouse (VDW) containing electronic health record data from patients who received care in SLU’s academic medical practice or our partner SSM Health System. A merged instance of EPIC between SSM Health and the SLUCare medical practice provided a unique opportunity for the development of an SLU-SSM Health VDW that includes 23 hospitals, nearly 300 ambulatory care sites and approximately 4 million patients who received care in Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Of those, 1.7 million have established primary care within the SSM Health System.  Patient demographics include sufficient samples of African-American and white urban and rural poor to offer unique resource for health disparities research. In this presentation, we will describe the development of a unique, comprehensive VDW encompassing data from two organizationally distinct entities. Specifically, we will discuss cultivating the relationship between an academic institution and a larger health system, building the VDW to the specifications of a common data model, optimizing the end-user experience with cloud-based storage solutions, and facilitating the research project life-cycle with comprehensive analytic support services.

The VDW build began in June 2019 with projected completion in March 2021. On target progress enabled the AHEAD Institute to successfully apply for membership into the Health Care Systems Research Network in September 2020. Challenges to development included identification and inclusion of key stakeholders in both organizations, conforming to data security and compliance policies at two separate organizations, timing of data transfer from SSM Health to SLU, and inter-organizational collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SLU-SSM Health partnerships allows for novel health services and outcomes research comparing academic to private sector delivery of care. Bridging two independent organizations with shared data resources presents both challenges and advantages during resource development.  Early VDW user research areas include mental health, infection, asthma, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Leslie Hinyard, PhD, MSW

Executive Director, AHEAD Institute

Leslie Hinyard, PhD, MSW is an Associate Professor of Health Outcomes Research, Chair of the Department of Health and Clinical Outcomes in the School of Medicine, and the founding Executive Director of the Advanced HEAlth Data (AHEAD) Institute at Saint Louis University.  Dr. Hinyard has expertise in secondary data analysis including national survey research, large administrative claims databases, and research involving electronic medical records as well as analysis of prospective and observational studies.  Her research focuses on health disparities and health equity, health related quality of life, and psychosocial needs of cancer patients.  Additionally, she works with an interdisciplinary group of researchers to improve training for interprofessional health care clinicians for improvements in advance care planning and palliative care. Dr. Hinyard earned her Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in Saint Louis and her Ph.D. in Public Health Studies from Saint Louis University.    

Katie Sniffen, MS, ATC

Director of Operations & Outreach, AHEAD Institute

Katie Sniffen is the Director of Operations & Outreach for Saint Louis University’s AHEAD Institute. In this role, she provides logistical support to faculty, staff, and primary investigators using the AHEAD Institute’s virtual data warehouse for research projects. Katie is an athletic trainer with six years of clinical experience providing quality, affordable, and accessible health care to collegiate student-athletes at the University of Oregon and Pepperdine University. She obtained a master’s degree from the University of Oregon’s Post-Professional Athletic Training Master’s Program and is currently seeking a PhD in Health Outcomes Research from Saint Louis University. Katie is also an Instructor in the Department of Athletic Training and Physical Therapy with additional teaching experience in Interprofessional Education. Katie’s research interests lie in demonstrating the value of athletic training services on the health of populations through the application of health outcomes research.

Chad Kallal

Data Manager, AHEAD Institute

Chad Kallal is the Data Manager in the Saint Louis University Center for Health Outcomes Research, and is responsible for assisting in the implementation of the AHEAD institute’s Virtual Data Warehouse.  His educational background includes a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, a Master of Science in Health Data Science and certifications in Epic’s Electronic Health Record. With a professional background in Clinical Information Technology, his current focus is supporting faculty members with data needs, including data storage, abstraction, maintenance, and analysis.

Paul Hitz, MSHI

Director for Data Management & Informatics, AHEAD Institute

Paul Hitz is the Director of Data Management and Health Informatics for Saint Louis University (SLU) AHEAD Institute. He obtained a master’s degree in Health Informatics from the University of Illinois, Chicago.  In his role at the AHEAD Institute, he works with the AHEAD team to create an efficient and accurate process to extract, transform, and load data from Epic Clarity into a Virtual Data Warehouse (VDW), matching the Health Care Systems Research Network (HCSRN) data model. Paul has worked for over a dozen years in similar activities and roles, including two consulting positions and three employed positions at the Marshfield Clinic, Essentia Health, and now SLU. While at Essentia Health, Paul also enjoyed time as Co-lead of the HCSRN, VDW Operations Committee.

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