BJC HealthCare Improves Clinical Research with DB2 pureXML

February 7, 2010

In my previous post I talked about XML in the data warehouse. While using XML in a data warehouse may seem like a very novel idea to some database professionals, it is already a reality for others.

One example can be found at BJC Healthcare, one of the largest non-profit health care organizations in the USA. To give you an idea of the size of their operation: they run 13 hospitals, multiple community health facilities, and they have more than 26,000 employees and a net revenue of $3.2 billion. Their challenges and goals included improving the data collection required for grant applications, identifying suitable patients for medical studies, and improving patient treatment. The IT solution had to protect patient privacy and provide adequate performance and scalability to handle the increasing amounts of data.

Given the diverse and evolving nature of medical data, BJC decided to use XML as the format for patient medical records, lab results, and other clinical information. This decision provides two key benefits to their application. First, XML provides the flexibility that is required to handle variable data and future schema evolution. Second, the use of XML has allowed BJC to design a simple and intuitive database schema with less than 10 tables. Storing the same information in a fully relational database schema would have required over 100 tables and many queries would have to join 20 or more tables, which is complex and can often be inefficient.

At the beginning of the project, BJC evaluated DB2 as well as other databases that support XML data. BJC chose DB2 for a variety of reasons, including ease of use of the pureXML features in DB2 as well as a very short time to get up and running with a prototype.

The DB2 pureXML database at BJC currently holds about 2.5 terabytes worth of medical records in XML format. The browser-based application interface allows users to define complex analytical search requests that are automatically translated into XQuery and SQL/XML statements and submitted to DB2.

Read the full BJC case study for more details.

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