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A Process for Achieving Comparable Data from Heterogeneous Databases

Author: Rachel L Richesson, MPH, PhD (2003)

Primary Advisor: James P. Turley, RN, PhD

Committee Members: Kathy A. Johnson-Throop, PhD; Christoph Eick, PhD; Mark S. Tuttle, FACMI

PhD Thesis, The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston.

The current state of health and biomedicine includes an enormity of heterogeneous data 'silos', collected for different purposes and represented differently, that are presently impossible to share or analyze in toto. The greatest challenge for large-scale and meaningful analyses of health-related data is to achieve a uniform data representation for data extracted from heterogeneous source representations. Based upon an analysis and categorization of heterogeneities, a process for achieving comparable data content by using a uniform terminological representation is developed. This process addresses the types of representational heterogeneities that commonly arise in healthcare data integration problems. Specifically, this process uses a reference terminology, and associated "maps" to transform heterogeneous data to a standard representation for comparability and secondary use. The capture of quality and precision of the ?maps? between local terms and reference terminology concepts enhances the meaning of the aggregated data, empowering end users with better-informed queries for subsequent analyses. A data integration case study in the domain of pediatric asthma illustrates the development and use of a reference terminology for creating comparable data from heterogeneous source representations. The contribution of this research is a generalized process for the integration of data from heterogeneous source representations, and this process can be applied and extended to other problems where heterogeneous data needs to be merged.