Discovery Stories

New Application Harnesses Big Data to Improve Care

Big Data Commons to bring disparate datasources together and put them on a common platform so they can be shared among researchers.

The following article is a feature in Partners InfoSys Newsletter Winter 2015. This newsletter is published by and for Partners HealthCare Information Systems and can be viewed when on the Partners Network:  http://isintranet.partners.org/content/News/newsletter/documents/InfoSys-Winter2015.pdf


The research computing area of Partners IS oversees the development and implementation of informatics-based tools to aid Partners researchers. Among these is Commons, “a virtual gathering together of information and people,” said Brent Richter, associate director, Enterprise Research Infrastructure & Services (ERIS). “The basic idea is to bring disparate datasources together and put them on a common platform so they can be shared among researchers.” 

There are several current data sources available to researchers. One is the Research Patient Data Registry (RPDR), a centralized clinical data registry/ware- house that gathers data from various hospital systems and stores it securely in one place. A second is the Partners Biobank, a large-scale, state-of-the-art repository housing blood samples and health information from thousands of Partners patients to enable research on personalized medicine. Eventually, the Biobank expects to store samples from 75,000 patient-participants. In addition, researchers have their own data gathered over the years about patients in their studies. 

Big Data Commons has two benefits. First, it encourages collaboration. “Bringing these data sources together, putting them on a common platform, and facilitating data sharing enables researchers to gain deeper insights,” said Richter. Even more important, however, is the overall goal of improving care. “The purpose of this platform is not strictly for research,” said Richter. “It’s really to lessen the amount of time required to get research results into clinical practice and to offer precision medicine, based on as much information as is available, so clinicians can provide the most precise diagnosis and treatment.” 


Members of info.sys@partners Advisory Committee:
Lisa Ephgrave, IS Communications, chair
John Grieco, Tech Services and Operations
Scott MacLean, Deputy CIO
Mary Meadows, DFCI
Alison Sneider, Alison Sneider Communications, LLC
Joanne Tremblay, Application Development
Jeffrey Wright, IS Support Services