Clinical Databases for Chest Physicians

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Abstract

A clinical database is a repository of patient medical and sociodemographic information focused on one or more specific health condition or exposure. Although clinical databases may be used for research purposes, their primary goal is to collect and track patient data for quality improvement, quality assurance, and/or actual clinical management. This article aims to provide an introduction and practical advice on the development of small-scale clinical databases for chest physicians and practice groups. Through example projects, we discuss the pros and cons of available technical platforms, including Microsoft Excel and Access, relational database management systems such as Oracle and PostgreSQL, and Research Electronic Data Capture. We consider approaches to deciding the base unit of data collection, creating consensus around variable definitions, and structuring routine clinical care to complement database aims. We conclude with an overview of regulatory and security considerations for clinical databases.

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