Physicians and information technology staff with Tulane Health System recently completed a pilot program with REACHnet – a Louisiana-based clinical data research network – that has streamlined the process of connecting patients with medical research projects, enhancing the speed with which medical innovations and discoveries can be made throughout the region.

The new program simplifies the process of mining patient data and automates the process of identifying likely candidates to participate in new and ongoing research studies. The eligibility criteria for many research studies is complex and can require both inpatient and outpatient records.

“The usual process is to manually go through patient records and query the specifications for a given research study,” said Marlin Sams, senior director of information technology and services for Tulane Health System. “That could include things like diagnoses associated with ambulatory encounters, medications prescribed in an outpatient setting and cardiac events recorded in an inpatient setting.

“Collating that data was an extremely time-consuming process. Now, we’re able to automate that search and connect patients with studies in a fraction of the time, while also freeing up staff to focus on other things.”

The pilot, which took 18 months to complete, focused on five research projects at Tulane Health System. But its success has opened doors to other projects at Tulane, at other regional healthcare institutions and throughout the country, Sams said.

“Our mission is to provide world-class patient care, education and research,” said Tulane Health System CEO Dr. William Lunn. “This innovation is helping build an infrastructure that lets us expand our research capabilities. I applaud all the physicians and staff that helped develop this program, and we all celebrate the cures and medical advances it will help bring to fruition.”