What Is a Clinical Data Repository?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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A clinical data repository is a collection of clinical data from patients who pass through a facility, clinic, or medical office. Care providers can use this information in individual patient care as well as in the management of particular procedures, departments, and treatment protocols. It can also be extremely valuable for researchers who want to retrospectively examine clinical data. Access to the information is limited for legal reasons, as it could be potentially compromising for patients.

Creation of a clinical data repository requires a robust electronic medical records system, ideally one where historic records have been scanned or entered. As users develop new information through lab tests, medical imaging studies, and patient examinations, they enter it into electronic files. These files enter the clinical data repository to update it and provide more information. Care providers can also network with others to share medical records, if patients allow this.

One use for a clinical data repository is in patient care. A doctor can view a whole patient record and may take note of any special findings. He can easily pull up the record from a variety of locations, search it, and analyze it. This may be useful for diagnostic purposes and can also help with the ongoing management of chronic and terminal illnesses. The centralized nature of the data can also reduce the risk of mistakes.


For researchers within a facility, a clinical data repository can be a valuable resource. Hospital administrators and other personnel can search by various parameters. They may use this information to identify problems within departments, differing treatment outcomes, and other topics of interest. This can help administrators develop policies and participate in the creation of new standards of care and treatment. The goal is to improve patient care in individual facilities through statistical analysis and monitoring.

Researchers can also arrange to access a clinical data repository after review by an ethics panel to make sure their work is ethically appropriate. It is possible to compare patient records across databases in thorough evaluations to assess patient outcomes with different kinds of treatments. For long term studies of various populations, this can be very useful. A researcher might have an interest in health care disparities in cardiac care, for example, and could rely on existing clinical data as a resource to learn more about who receives care, what the quality of the care is, and when it takes place.


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