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T-Space at The University of Toronto Libraries >
Journal of Medical Internet Research >
Volume 5 (2003) >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/4677

Title: Generic Design of Web-Based Clinical Databases
Authors: Anhøj, Jacob
Keywords: Review
medical informatics applications
software design
Issue Date: 4-Nov-2003
Publisher: Gunther Eysenbach; Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, Toronto, Canada
Citation: Jacob Anhøj. Generic Design of Web-Based Clinical Databases. J Med Internet Res 2003;5(4):e27 <URL: http://www.jmir.org/2003/4/e27/>
Abstract: [This item is a preserved copy and is not necessarily the most recent version. To view the current item, visit http://www.jmir.org/2003/4/e27/ ] Background: The complexity and the rapid evolution and expansion of the domain of clinical information make development and maintenance of clinical databases difficult. Whenever new data types are introduced or existing types are modified in a conventional relational database system, the physical design of the database must be changed accordingly. For this reason, it is desirable that a clinical database be flexible and allow for modifications and for addition of new types of data without having to change the physical database schema. The ideal clinical database would therefore implement a highly-detailed logical database schema in a completely-generic physical schema that stores the wide variety of clinical data in a small and constant number of tables. Objective: The objective was to review the medical literature regarding generic design of clinical databases. Methods: A search strategy was devised for PubMed and Google to get the best match of peer-reviewed articles and free Web resources on the subject. Results: Eight peer reviewed articles and a Web tutorial were found. All the resources described the so-called Entity-Attribute-Value (EAV) design as a means of simplifying the physical layout of data tables in a clinical database. In Entity-Attribute-Value design all data can be stored in a single generic table with conceptually 3 columns: 1 for entity (eg, patient identification), 1 for attribute (eg, name), and 1 for value (eg, "Jens Hansen"). To add more descriptive fields to the entity class, all that is necessary is to add attribute values to be stored in the attribute field. The main advantages of the Entity-Attribute-Value design are flexibility and effective entity-centered data retrieval. The main disadvantages are complicated front-end programming needed to display data in a conventional layout that the user understands and less-efficient attribute-centered queries. The Internet offers unique opportunities for database deployment, eliminating problems of user-interface deployment. Furthermore, Web forms may be generated in a completely-generic fashion during run time from metadata describing the semantic structure of clinical information stored in the database. Conclusions: The Entity-Attribute-Value model is useful for generic design of clinical databases. Depending on the specific requirements of the application, more or less complex metadata models may be applied.
Description: Reviewer: Nadkarni, Prakash
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/4677
ISSN: 1438-8871
Other Identifiers: doi:10.2196/jmir.5.4.e27
Rights: Copyright (cc) Retained by author(s) under a Creative Commons License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Appears in Collections:Volume 5 (2003)

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