North Carolina: SAS Grant Helps Research Into HIV
January 21, 2003
What used to take hours now takes minutes at the Center for AIDS Research at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Joseph J. Eron, core clinical director of the center, used to scan patients' paper medical records in search of clues about which therapies were most effective for UNC clinics' HIV-infected patients.Adapted from:
Then a $600,000 software grant and technical assistance from Cary, N.C.'s SAS Institute helped UNC create an electronic data warehouse that allows researchers to compare results for whole groups of patients in minutes. The database includes information on patients' viral loads, CD4 counts, past and present immune system functions, medication and immunization history. Only a select group of staff members has access to the database, which protects anonymity by wiping personal information from statistics including age, sex, race and other demographic data.
"Having all of that in one place allows us to ask sophisticated questions about the relationships between, for example, a patient's gender and how they respond to a particular therapy," Eron said. "Or we can look at age and response to a particular medication. With a tool like this, you may be able to identify complications of an HIV medication. You may identify a new complication of the disease itself."
The UNC database, primarily intended as a research tool, has also improved patient care at UNC's HIV clinic. Research assistants tap the database to generate patient-specific reports so physicians can quickly assess a patient's history. "With one glance, you can see if the immune function is going up and the virus is going down, which is what you want," Eron said. "And you can check to see whether that corresponds to changes in therapy."
The reports also include prompts to remind physicians to find out whether patients have had necessary immunizations. Eron notes that clinicians are very interested in making sure the system contains accurate information. "They realize that the quality of the data that comes out is only as good as the quality of information that goes in," he said.
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
01.15.03; Jean P. Fisher
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.