The opportunities and obstacles in developing a vascular birthmark database for clinical and research use

Sharma, Vishal K.; Fraulin, Frankie O. G.; Harrop, A. Robertson; McPhalen, Donald F.
December 2011
Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery;Winter2011, Vol. 19 Issue 4, p122
Academic Journal
INTRODUCTION: Databases are useful tools in clinical settings. The authors review the benefits and challenges associated with the development and implementation of an efficient electronic database for the multidisciplinary Vascular Birthmark Clinic at the Alberta Children's Hospital, Calgary, Alberta. METHODS: The content and structure of the database were designed using the technical expertise of a data analyst from the Calgary Health Region. Relevant clinical and demographic data fields were included with the goal of documenting ongoing care of individual patients, and facilitating future epidemiological studies of this patient population. After completion of this database, 10 challenges encountered during development were retrospectively identified. Practical solutions for these challenges are presented. RESULTS: The challenges identified during the database development process included: identification of relevant data fields; balancing simplicity and user-friendliness with complexity and comprehensive data storage; database expertise versus clinical expertise; software platform selection; linkage of data from the previous spreadsheet to a new data management system; ethics approval for the development of the database and its utilization for research studies; ensuring privacy and limited access to the database; integration of digital photographs into the database; adoption of the database by support staff in the clinic; and maintaining up-to-date entries in the database. CONCLUSIONS: There are several challenges involved in the development of a useful and efficient clinical database. Awareness of these potential obstacles, in advance, may simplify the development of clinical databases by others in various surgical settings.


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