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The LDI HSRDC was established in 2005 at the University of Pennsylvania to facilitate health services research by LDI Senior Fellows using highly sensitive patient information.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q&A: General Information

Q1Why and how does LDI support the HSRDC?

Q2.  Can the HSRDC be used for any Penn research project involving health care data?

Q3.  What are the technical specifications of the HSRDC server environment?

Q4.  Is there a list of available datasets on the HSRDC server?

Q5.  What are the fees for data storage and/or computing on the HSRDC server?

Q&A: Data Use Agreements

Q6.  What if my research project proposal involves use of data already on the server (i.e., data reuse), rather than "new" data that I had directly acquired?
Q7.  Does a CMS data reuse agreement require approval of the current data holder?

Q8.  Once I obtain a server account, can I connect to the server from any networked PC?

Q&A: Information for Senior Fellows

Q9.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow who is planning a research project involving high-security health care data. How can I obtain access to the HSRDC server?

Q10.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow who does not currently have server access or grant support, but I wish to conduct pilot analyses on secure health care data in preparation for a grant application that would provide server support. How can I obtain access to the HSRDC server?

Q11.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow. How would I pursue data reuse?

Q12.  Does HSRDC provide programmers or biostatisticians to assist LDI Senior Fellows with their data?

Q&A: Information for non-Senior Fellows

Q13.  I am not an LDI Senior Fellow, but I wish to perform research on high-security health care data. How can I obtain access to the server?

Q14.  How can I identify an LDI Senior Fellow currently supporting the HSRDC resource who might be willing to collaborate and sponsor my project on the server?

Q15.  Am I guaranteed to find a willing collaborator/sponsor among the LDI Senior Fellows supporting the HSRDC?

Q16.   I'm not an LDI Senior Fellow. How would I pursue data reuse?

General Information
Q1.  Why and how does LDI support the HSRDC?

A1.  As it is difficult for any one investigator to sustain such a costly resource, the HSRDC was established to permit multiple externally funded LDI investigators to pool grant support and build a unified, synergized analytic platform. LDI provides sustaining support to bridge the inevitable variation in grant funding, permit mentored trainees to use the system in close collaboration with funded LDI senior fellows, and allow unfunded LDI senior fellows to perform pilot research in preparation of grant applications.


Q2.   Can the HSRDC be used for any Penn research project involving health care data?

A2.  Because this server environment is maintained at a high security level in accordance with federal regulations governing secure computer systems (the Federal Information Security Management Act-FISMA), we are required to limit the server solely to research using data that require high security (e.g. data with individually identifiable, protected health information). Lower security datasets (e.g. anonymous patient surveys, de-identified data, publicly-available data, etc.) should be stored and analyzed elsewhere.


Q3.  What are the technical specifications of the HSRDC server environment?

A3.  Our primary server is a 16-CPU Dell PowerEdge Rack 900 (4xQC E7330 Xeon 2.4GHz with 64 GB RAM) running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 with an attached 8 terabyte storage area network. The user interface is the BASH Unix shell, accessed remotely via secure shell (SSH) connections via a private (fixed IP list) network. SAS and STATA licenses are maintained for the server, as well as the 'R' statistical package, permitting a wide array of statistical analyses. X-11 forwarding permits users to run server programs using graphical-user-interface (GUI) via X-Windows emulator software such as Cygwin.


Q4.  Is there a list of available datasets on the HSRDC server?

A4.  Due to internet security concerns, we do not widely publicize which specific federal and state datasets are available on the HSRDC server. Interested individuals should discuss these issues directly with Gina Pugliano(contact information below).


Q5.  What are the fees for data storage and/or computing on the HSRDC server?

A5.  Data storage and computing fees are estimated on a per project basis. A formal cost estimate can be prepared for investigators writing grant applications. HSRDC fees include financial support for IT personnel, software licenses, hardware maintenance and depreciation, disk space, CPU time, and data uploading. Minimum annual costs are approximately $3,000 per project, with additional annual costs in proportion to the number of high-intensity users and the quantity of data used. Requests for formal cost estimates (e.g., in preparation for a grant submission) should be sent to Gina Pugliano.


Data Use Agreements
Q6.  What if my research project proposal involves use of data already on the server (i.e., data reuse), rather than "new" data that I had directly acquired?
A6.  Each federal dataset residing on the HSRDC server is governed by a data use agreement (DUA), which is a legal contract executed between an LDI Principal Investigator and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The DUAs are strict in terms on the research purposes for which the Federal data can and cannot be used. Individual HSRDC investigators can not authorize reuse of their data for new projects. Instead, reuse of CMS data must be approved by CMS through a formal data reuse agreement (http://www.resdac.umn.edu/Medicare/requesting_data_RIF_ReUse.asp).

Q7.  Does a CMS data reuse agreement require approval of the current data holder?

A7.  Yes. Both the current data holder and her/his funder would need to approve a new research project proposal involving data reuse.


Q8.  Once I obtain a server account, can I connect to the server from any networked PC?

A8 No. The server exists on a private network defined by a strict set of IP (internet protocol) addresses, and only connections from this list will be accepted. Upon receiving security clearance to access the server, the user's primary Penn computer's IP address will be added to the access list. Requests for additions of non-Penn IP addresses to the server access list will generally be denied.


Information for Senior Fellows
Q9.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow who is planning a research project involving high-security health care data. How can I obtain access to the HSRDC server?

A9.  LDI Senior Fellows with high security data and funding (or anticipated funding) to support the HSRDC should contact Gina Pugliano to establish a fee schedule and plan the timing, scope, and logistics of the HSRDC resource use. Ideally, this contact should be made in the planning stages (e.g., at the time of grant submission) of a research project, so that the investigator would be able to request the appropriate amount of grant support for the resource, and to permit adequate preparation of the computing resources for the project. Additionally, Gina should also be notified once notice of funding is received and a start date for the research project has been established.


Q10.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow who does not currently have server access or grant support, but I wish to conduct pilot analyses on secure health care data in preparation for a grant application that would provide server support. How can I obtain access to the HSRDC server?

A10.  The pilot protocol should be forwarded to Gina Pugliano, who will review the protocol along with Dr. Groeneveld and potentially other ad hoc reviewers from LDI. Approval for time-limited (typically 12-month) server access will be granted based on the quality and feasibility of the protocol, the anticipated likelihood of successful external funding, and the relevance of the research to LDI's mission. Priority will be given to proposals supported by LDI's annual Pilot Project Program.


Q11.  I'm an LDI Senior Fellow. How would I pursue data reuse?

A11.  LDI Senior Fellows would need to have the appropriate funding to support their use of the HSRDC server, and/or have their own separate secure computing environment for data analysis that meets CMS' data security requirements. Email a detailed abstract of your project proposal to Gina Pugliano, specifying which datasets you are seeking to reuse. Gina will forward your abstract to the investigators who are custodians of the data on the server.


Q12.  Does HSRDC provide programmers or biostatisticians to assist LDI Senior Fellows with their data?

A12.  Unfortunately, we currently do not provide either programming or biostatistical support for projects.


Information for non-Senior Fellows
Q13.  I am not an LDI Senior Fellow, but I wish to perform research on high-security health care data, how can I obtain access to the server?
A13.  University of Pennsylvania graduate students, clinical fellows, post-docs, and faculty who are not LDI Senior Fellows can receive HSRDC server privileges only if they are directly collaborating on a research project with an LDI Senior Fellow who is currently providing funds to support the resource. Students and other trainees interested in developing a project proposal using HSRDC datasets are encouraged to first discuss potential projects (and project mentors) with their primary dissertation advisor or faculty mentor.
Q14.  How can I identify an LDI Senior Fellow currently supporting the HSRDC resource who might be willing to collaborate and sponsor my project on the server?

A14.  Email a detailed abstract of your project proposal to Gina Pugliano. If you are a graduate student, clinical fellow, post-doc, or other trainee, you should indicate the name of your primary research faculty mentor. Gina will review and forward your abstract to the investigators who are custodians of the data on the server.


Q15.  Am I guaranteed to find a willing collaborator/sponsor among the LDI Senior Fellows supporting the HSRDC?

A15.  Although all LDI Senior Fellows using the HSRDC server are strongly encouraged to collaborate with other faculty and mentor trainees, we cannot guarantee that all project proposals will find a "match."


Q16.  I'm not an LDI Senior Fellow. How would I pursue data reuse?
A16 Penn-affiliated investigators who are not LDI Senior Fellows would need to have their own separate secure computing environment for data analysis that meets CMS' data security requirements, or they would need to be collaborating with an LDI Senior Fellow who is currently supporting the data center (A8, A9). Email a detailed abstract of your project proposal to Gina Pugliano, specifying which datasets you are seeking to reuse. Trainees should include along the name of your primary research faculty mentor. Gina will forward your abstract to the investigators who are custodians of the data on the server.

Questions? Contact Gina Pugliano at ginapug@mail.med.upenn.edu for help with:

  • Server access issues
  • Specific data storage, access, and acquisition needs
  • Budgeting and resource planning in grant application
  • Other things listed above
  • Other things not listed above

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