Data Infrastructure

Facilitating secure data connections.

REACHnet’s powerful and reliable technology infrastructure allows for the secure, rapid, and efficient execution of research projects using cutting-edge technology. Researchers can identify, recruit, and manage patients in clinical studies like never before while minimizing the effort necessary to collect and manage data.

Patient Identification:

REACHnet hosts millions of patient records within its infrastructure from health systems across Louisiana and Texas. Identification of eligible patients for different studies are optimized by using tools like i2b2 and PopMedNet greatly reducing the time to identify patients. Additionally, REACHnet can identify patients in the national PCORnet network that spans across the United States through PCORnet’s distributed clinical data research network.

Patient Recruitment:

Once patients are identified as eligible for a study, health systems members of REACHnet can recruit patients very efficiently though the use of REACHnet’s exam room tablet computers and the Pragmatic Trial App Suite (PTAS). Patients are engaged to use tablet computers in exam room while waiting for their physician and learn about studies they are eligible for. Depending on the study, patients can even consent and be enrolled using the tablets computers and PTAS. Furthermore, patients are asked to join the Health in our Hands (HiOH) patient network where engagement can take place outside of the clinic setting.

Study Management:

Clinical Research Coordinators (CRCs) have access to REACHnet’s Researcher App to more efficiently manage patients in different studies. The Researcher App is tightly integrated to the recruitment processes performed by tablets in exam rooms and also to the data present in REACHnet’s Common Data Model. CRC’s know in real time, all actions performed by patients within a study, while at the same time accessing the patients records without having to manually enter much of the data needed to perform the study.

Learn more about other REACHnet resources and how they can help you more efficiently execute your research studies:

Common Data Model (CDM)Global Patient ID (GPID)i2b2PopMedNet

The Common Data Model version 3.0 (CDM), developed by PCORnet, is a method of organizing data into a standard structure to enhance its usability in research. REACHnet’s partners map patient data from their internal health records to CDM specifications and transfer the CDM to REACHnet’s datacenter. The CDM, informed by similar distributed initiatives in the past, is built around standard terminologies and coding systems for health care such as CPT, ICD, and LOINC. Previously a research query to find patients with a Date of Birth in a given range would have to be re-written at each institution to reflect the design of their electronic medical record. Not only is this time consuming, but it also increases the chance for errors. Using the CDM, however, the exact same query can be run at all sites and all results received will be in the same format. This design facilitates interoperability, expedites the research process, and reduces duplication of efforts. As part of REACHnet’s technology stack, the CDM enables the creation of a single health record for each patient composed of standardized records from any partner institution where care was delivered.

The CDM is a limited dataset which means that the only Protected Identifiable Information (PII) is dates such as birth dates, encounter dates, procedure dates, among others. The composition of the CDM as a limited dataset eliminates many of the risks associated with PII as names, social security numbers, addresses, and other elements that lead to identity theft are absent. However, the lack of PII makes it difficult to match patient across health systems and more accurately identify them for research studies that require a richer longitudinal level of data. To solve that challenge REACHnet has created a Global Patient Identification (GPID) system that matches patients without the sharing of identifiable information.

For more information on the Common Data Model, visit the PCORnet User Guide.


REACHnet has designed a master patient index (MPI) which allows the de-duplication of patients from partner health systems without exposing patient identifiable information (PII) in the process. This is accomplished using the Global Patient ID (GPID) system developed by REACHnet in partnership with Health Data Link, LLC in Chicago. Within a partner’s health system, each patient’s PII elements are arranged into seventeen combinations. Each of these is combined with a SALT, random values securely shared with each partner, and passed into a Hashing Engine which uses a National Security Administration (NSA) approved encryption method [NSA SHA-2 (512)] to generate an encrypted “hash bundle.” The hash bundle is transmitted to the REACHnet data center where the Hash Matching Engine compares the incoming hash bundles with those already in the REACHnet database to look for equivalent hash bundles from other partners. If a match is found, the incoming hash bundle is assigned the existing GPID. Otherwise a new GPID is assigned to that bundle. The GPID, as part of REACHnet’s technology stack enables the creation of a single health record for each patient composed of records from any partner institution where care was delivered.

Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside, or i2b2, is an NIH-funded data repository and analysis platform. Investigators can use i2b2’s drag-and-drop web interface to easily build a query. Users can select the data elements and enforce appropriate constraints for their research question without learning complicated query language. Query results are returned within i2b2 where they can be analyzed or exported for further analysis. As part of REACHnet’s technology stack, i2b2 enables investigators to more easily operationalize their research questions and accurately find patient cohorts.

PopMedNet is a tool used to distribute queries to many institutions by “bringing the question to the data.” Using PopMedNet, a query built at one institution can be shared with other institutions using the tool. The other institutions can run the query within their own secure environment, review the results, and determine whether it is appropriate to securely share these with the originating institution. PopMedNet, as part of REACHnet’s technology stack, facilitates the sharing and collection of research data, providing a more robust and cohesive dataset.