Boutin et al. (2016) describe the information technology (IT) infrastructure that Partners Personalized Medicine (PPM) uses in biobanking and how it integrates with existing clinical and research systems. Biobanking relies on infrastructure that allows researchers to manage large amounts of data, maintain privacy and drive efficiency using workflows. This infrastructure must be scalable with growth and able to be integrated with other clinical systems. PPM utilizes genetics and genomics to improve patient care through its personalized medicine program.
PPM has four functional components to its IT infrastructure, each of which has distinct biobanking and genomic software applications:
- Consent tracking: PPM uses Constrack, a custom application that manages informed consent. The software manages multiple consent forms for multiple studies, as the biobank collaborates with a number of research studies throughout the hospital.
- Sample management.
- Laboratory processing.
- Data and sample distribution.
The authors write that PPM maintains data security and integrity by using secure network connections and digital certificates. The company stores all data in an encrypted state. Biobank users are assigned varying levels of access, dependent upon their role in biobanking. PPM also regularly backs up data. Furthermore, by integrating the biobank’s IT infrastructure with clinical systems, PPM is able to minimize human error. A biobank portal provides researchers interested in obtaining samples with a query-able view of the samples and genomic data, as well as derived clinical phenotype information in the biobank.
The authors highlight some of the IT challenges faced by biobanking in personalized medicine. While some are similar to other industries, such as the functionality required of the technology, preventing technology costs exceeding planned costs, sustainability, deciding whether to use in-house versus vendor applications for data management and so on, there are additional challenges because of the complexity of the biobank. PPM is part of a larger organization, Partners HealthCare, a large and complex organization. PPM has a diverse ecosystem of applications, some of which predate the actual biobank. Where possible, PPM has tried to implement new IT infrastructure that leverages existing systems to have as little effect on workflows and processing as possible. When PPM has required additional software, it has been a priority to perform a cost analysis of in-house programming versus market-ready products, weighing the capacity of each to meet their needs with as little disruption as possible.
Clinical systems and personalized medicine are constantly evolving. This constantly moving landscape requires PPM’s IT infrastructure to remain robust, agile and cost-effective. Furthermore, Partners HealthCare is implementing an enterprise electronic health record software package to replace existing systems that manage electronic records. PPM’s hope is that there will be flow-on opportunities for components of biobanking, such as managing research consent, to be simplified.
Boutin, N. (2016) “The information technology infrastructure for the translational genomics core and the partners biobank at partners personalized medicine,” The Journal of Personalized Medicine, 6(1), doi:10.3390/jpm6010006