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Step 1: Overview of Data Access Services

The Human Imaging Research Office (HIRO) provides access for researchers to images and clinical reports that have many patient identifiers (protected health information, or PHI) removed. In order for the HIRO to provide this access, researchers must do the following (these steps are covered in subsequent sections of the tutorial):

  • Have a research protocol that has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of Chicago;
  • Create accounts for the principal investigator and other members of the research team who need access;
  • Register the IRB protocol with the HIRO (after it has been approved by the IRB) and assign the types of access that should be granted to each member of the research team.

Types of Services

The HIRO provides access to reduced-PHI clinical data through two major types of services, which can be combined in various ways:

Option 1: Downloading and de-identification of images and reports by HIRO staff

HIRO staff can download imaging studies and radiology reports from your research patients and reduce the identifiers within them, providing you with reduced-PHI data. The original patient identifiers can be replaced with customized information if desired (i.e., patient names can be replaced with subject ID numbers, etc). This data can be provided to you either through the University network or on media such as a CD or DVD. The HIRO can also copy large quantities of data onto portable data storage devices (like external hard drives or USB thumb drives) that you provide.

The HIRO can also search for imaging studies based on different types of criteria that you provide. For example, you can supply a list of patient IDs and accession numbers (exam IDs), or you can define a specific exam type and a date range (like "all chest CTs from April 2009 to July 2009") to collect specific types of exams during a particular period of time.

Option 2: Download your images and data yourself through the Electronic Research Data Broker (ERDB) Systems

The University of Chicago Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) team has developed an Electronic Honest Broker (EHB) system, which can provide assigned (anonymous) IDs for the patients in your study. Assigned IDs can be used instead of protected medical history numbers (MRNs).

A second system, the iBroker, developed by Peng Liu and Wendy Zhu in the Department of Radiology, permits users with registered IRBs to use EHB assigned IDs to obtain reduced-PHI images, pathology reports, and laboratory results. Reduced-PHI images can be sent to a shared drive or a network (DICOM) destination.

Research users will generally be required to obtain images and data for their study through either the Electronic Honest Broker and iBroker, or (alternatively) through full-service HIRO image requests. In this way, exposure and risk to PHI can be minimized. Moreover, EHB and iBroker will allow research groups to easily separate roles within their team that need PHI from roles that need images and reports without needing access to PHI.

Next: Step 2 - Obtaining an IRB Protocol, and Understanding HIPAA