Frequently Asked Questions

Biomedical informatics is the science of information as applied to or studied in the context of biomedicine. Defining the object of study of informatics as data plus meaning clearly distinguishes the field from related fields, such as computer science, statistics and biomedicine, which have different objects of study. The emphasis on data plus meaning also suggests that biomedical informatics problems tend to be difficult when they deal with concepts that are hard to capture using formal, computational definitions. In other words, problems where meaning must be considered are more difficult than problems where manipulating data without regard for meaning is sufficient.

Information Technology (IT) in its broadest sense encompasses all aspects of computing technology. As an academic discipline, IT is concerned with issues related to advocating for users and meeting their needs within an organizational and societal context through the selection, creation, application, integration and administration of computing technologies. IT’s focus on data manipulation with regard to maintaining data integrity does not include the component of contextual meaning associated with biomedical informatics.

Allscripts - The Electronic Medical Record used by UT Physicians
BMI - Biomedical Informatics
CCTS - Clinical and Translational Sciences
CRU - Clinical Research Unit
CTSA - Clinical Translational Science Awards
(MPI) IDX - The billing system used by Allscripts
IRB - Institutional Review Board
iRIS - Repository for research projects and the mechanism through which IRB works to approve projects
LDAP - Centralized authentication system used by UTHealth
MMH - Memorial Hermann Hospital
SBMI - School of Biomedical Informatics (formerly SHIS)
SHIS - School of Health Information Sciences
UTPhysicians - Collectively they are the Medical School physicians who work in UTHealth clinics and associated hospitals
UTHealth - University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, "the University", and UTHealth are all terms used interchangeably
UUID - A perpetual Unique Identifier

UT-BIG maintains a Clinical Data Warehouse where subject and medical data from sources is maintained. The team has partnered with Memorial Hermann Hospital, M.D. Anderson and the UT Dental School to receive clinical data on a regularly scheduled basis directly from daily clinical practice records. The data is interpreted and maintained in an i2b2 data hive for research usage.

The necessity of maintaining patient privacy dictates restricting access to the CDW. Researchers interested in using CDW data for clinical research will need to complete and submit a CDW data request form to the UT-BIG Technical Manager, Phillip Reeder. Once the request has been reviewed and approved, the data can be extracted, desensitized and delivered to the researcher. Researchers are responsible for establishing procedures which rigorously control access the data locally to prevent misuse and/or loss.

If you are generating a hypothesis or checking the feasibility of study, then you do not need IRB approval for us to query the data warehouse for you. If you need identified information, or if you intend to publish based on the findings of the query, then you must provide us with IRB approval. However, if your request is based on a clinical need, i.e. it is not for research, you will need to have your clinic director sign off on the request.

We are comprised of a small group of IT professionals (6 people total) whose primary objective is to create the CDW and provide a mechanism for performing Comparative Effectiveness Research. However, we view assisting researchers with their studies as an integral component for evaluating the CDW structure and identifying additional functionality. Support for your project is limited and will be determined based on staff availability and how closely your project aligns with our objectives.

While we have already created some research support applications, BIGTxt and REDCap, we can develop custom applications to support your research. to make a request, follow this link.

iRIS is the Integrated Research Information System used by UTHealth to record, review, and manage protocol requests. The process for protocol approval requires the Principal Investigator to complete the on-line application, attach supporting documentation and route the completed packet for signatures prior to submitting the packet for review. A tutorial, FAQs, application packet and further information can be found at iRIS system.

We can assist you by providing data which can be used to evaluate the strength of your study’s hypothesis. It is up to you to complete and submit the necessary documentation to secure IRB approval.