Clinical Practice Research Data made simple

Replacing face-to-face training with e-learning is a tried and tested route to cost effective and convenient training and education. But translating some pretty complex statistical and “pharmacoepidemiological” concepts into pithy and attractive e-learning modules is quite a challenge.

That’s what Digital Life Sciences is doing for the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), an organisation designed to maximise the way anonymised NHS clinical data can be linked to enable observational research for the benefit of public health.

The UK is the only country in the world where data has been recorded, since the 1940s, for every person registered with the health service – from birth to death. This means there’s a huge amount of data that researchers can learn from to help save lives.

But in order to make use of that data, researchers need to understand how it is collected, processed and used.

Digital Life Sciences is creating a set of e-learning modules for new users of CPRD GOLD (derived from GP Online Data) to help them understand a product which harnesses the computerised medical records of GPs from across the UK.

It’s important to note the data is NOT part the NHS programme which plans to use patient data held by GP practices for purposes beyond direct health care. The CPRD uses secure procedures guaranteeing that the data is anonymised prior to being analysed – in fact prior to collecting it in the first place. The data is centralised medical information collected from GPs, but CPRD provided linkage to a number of secondary care datasets, including Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES), Cancer Registry and Cardiovascular Outcomes databases.

The collection of  the information used in GOLD actually began as long ago as 1987 and now the database contains records from more than 13 million patients. It currently holds data on 8% of the UK population.

The aim is for new users of CPRD GOLD to take introductory modules online. This means that when they do go on to have face-to-face training, they come with a similar level of knowledge which means the training can be more engaging, relevant and interactive.

The Digital Life Sciences team is getting its head around concepts involved with extracting datasets for researchers against an appoved protocol and experimental design specifications. Terms like read codes, events, define, refine and pharmacoepidemiology now trip off the tongue.

The e-learning modules are due to be delivered in the autumn.

CPRD is jointly funded by the NHS National Institute for Health Research and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.


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