One of the solutions that can greatly help you in your research on observational data is OHDSI, an open source platform for Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (see this page for an introduction to OHDSI and the concept of observational data). In this blogpost we will approach OHDSI from a scientific angle to show you which type of questions you can answer with the help of OHDSI.
Observational data is becoming more and more popular nowadays:
- Researchers try to involve observational data in their science and in their funding applications.
- Pharmaceutical companies mention in silico clinical trials.
- Epidemiologists use it in populational health research.
- Even medical doctors are starting to use observational data when looking for the right treatment for their patients.
It has proven to be more than just a hype. On the contrary: professionals involved in biomedical research are only just starting to uncover the potential of observational data.
The power of observational data
Observational data is medical and healthcare data observed for a particular patient. The main power of observational data lays in its quantity.
All of us go to a GP every now and then, have insurance, some of us even participate in scientific and clinical studies. These observational data is already available to use, unlike data from randomized clinical trials, where patients need to be recruited and followed up for a period of time (which can be expensive for biomedical companies and invasive for the patients),. If we store all these observational data in one common format, we will be able to leverage millions and millions of observations.
However, there are two pitfalls with the power of big quantities of data:
- the shear size of the data requires new technologies to process it efficiently
- there are many (unknown) confounding factors that need to be taken into account (e.g., age or gender biases in compared groups).
OHDSI can help you trying to avoid these pitfalls.
The OHDSI community looks at observational data as a medical chart: it reflects a patient’s journey.