Research Impact

Controlling access to data: A health data case study

Summary

A University of Southern Queensland researcher solved a health data project’s issues of storing and sharing non-open, non-sensitive data by using QCIF’s QRIScloud and Nextcloud services.

Tania Phillips, a Research Assistant at USQ’s Institute for Resilient Regions in the Centre for Health, Informatics and Economic Research, is part of a team looking at how to reduce the numbers of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presenting at Queensland hospital emergency departments. COPD includes illnesses such as lung disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Full article

26 March 2020 

A University of Southern Queensland researcher solved a health data project’s issues of storing and sharing non-open, non-sensitive data by using QCIF’s QRIScloud and Nextcloud services.
 
Tania Phillips, a Research Assistant at USQ’s Institute for Resilient Regions in the Centre for Health, Informatics and Economic Research, is part of a team looking at how to reduce the numbers of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presenting at Queensland hospital emergency departments. COPD includes illnesses such as lung disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
 
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has indicated that COPD is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions (1).
 
A recent publication from Queensland’s Darling Downs and West Moreton Primary Health Network has called for proactive interventions or solutions that reduce avoidable hospital admissions and decrease economic burden (2).
 
“We are looking at how to best manage patients, who don't require hospitalisation, in the community instead of presenting at the ED [emergency departments], through referrals to a psychologist, nurse educator, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist, pulmonary rehabilitation, smoking cessation, etc.,” said Tania.
 
The project theorises that with appropriate investment in these targeted referral services, significant cost savings can occur if patients are better managed under an outpatients’ model.
 
The health services involved in the project will receive an estimate of the potential cost savings that could be achieved by an optimal treatment mix for COPD patients. 
 
In 2018, the Emergency Medicine Foundation provided grant funding for the project, which is being conducted across three hospitals: Gold Coast University Hospital and Robina, Toowoomba Hospital and Ipswich Hospital. 
 
Currently, 14 people are involved in the project, including staff at the aforementioned hospitals and six USQ researchers. 
 
Toowoomba Hospital’s Dr Alex King is the Principal Investigator, Associate Professor Clint Moloney is the lead Co-Investigator for USQ and oversees the entire project, and Tania is the Project Officer.
 
Tania, who has a Bachelor’s in Psychology (Hons) from USQ, is in charge of data storage and data management for the team.
 
She first heard of QRIScloud and Nextcloud through the USQ eResearch Research Data Management portal.  She then contacted QCIF’s USQ-based eResearch Analyst, Dr Francis Gacenga, for assistance in selecting the most appropriate data storage in line with the project’s requirements.
 
QRIScloud is QCIF’s cloud computing service and Nextcloud is an application designed to facilitate access, sharing and collaboration across data sets.
 
“Nextcloud and QRIScloud were specifically set up for us to enable the project to control access to privileged (but not sensitive) health data and share that data with selected and approved team members,” said Tania. 
 
“Without these repositories, file sharing would have been challenging and cumbersome.”
 
Tania set up a filing system to store all project-related documentation and a separate set of folders for project-related research data in Nextcloud. She backs up the research data to QRIScloud typically after new project data have been uploaded.
 
“The benefits of these storage repositories are the level of security and having the ability to share selected files and folders with specific people has allowed the project to adhere to strict Queensland Health ethical requirements.
 
“Another advantage is being able to access the data remotely and securely through the online portal and on my laptop using the Nextcloud client.”
 
Francis and QRIScloud administrators Stephen Crawley and Adrian Lee provided support in setting up the project on QRIScloud and Nextcloud and helped troubleshoot any issues. This support is ongoing.
 
The first phase of the research project is almost concluded. The team is currently working on the project scoping review (3).
 
The economic health benefits from this research will be more apparent at the completion of phase two of an anticipated longitudinal study. This phase will build on the valuable data collected and will continue to require secure and reliable data storage in the future.

In Brief:
 
Researcher:

Tania Phillips
Research Assistant
Institute for Resilient Regions
Centre for Health, Informatics and Economic Research
University of Southern Queensland
 
Research communities:
Health, Informatics and Economics

Resources used:

  • QRISdata: 2.1 GB. Frequent access storage.
  • Nextcloud

  1. AIHW 2012. Australia’s Health 2012. Cat. no. AUS 156.
  2. Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN. 2016. COPD by the numbers: Prevalence for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN region.
  3. Moloney C, Sneath E, Phillips T, Issac H, Beccaria G, Mullens A. Recommendations and practices for holistic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) assessment and optimal referral patterns in emergency department presentations: a scoping review protocol. BMJ Open. 2019 Aug 1;9(8):e030358. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/8/e030358