What is pSCANNER?

Begun in April 2014 and funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), patient-centered SCAlable National Network for Effectiveness Research (pSCANNER) is a stakeholder-governed federated network that will utilize a distributed, service-oriented architecture to integrate data from existing networks and surrounding health systems covering over 37 million patients.  pSCANNER is one of 13 clinical data research networks.


What is PCORnet®?

PCORnet is the name of the National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network, an innovative initiative of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).  The goal of PCORnet is to improve the nation’s capacity to conduct comparative effectiveness research efficiently by creating a large, highly representative network for conducting clinical outcomes research.  PCORnet will integrate data from 13 Clinical Data Research Networks (CDRNs) and 22 Patient-Powered Research Networks (PPRNs).  Click here for additional details about PCORnet.


Why is pSCANNER needed?

Traditional approaches to data sharing have at times undermined the ability of researchers and clinicians to access, aggregate, and analyze patient records at the point of care.  pSCANNER overcomes these obstacles by using a scalable, distributed network infrastructure, as well as novel methodologies, to enable near real-time comparative effectiveness research and prospective analysis of data collected from clinical databases.


How is pSCANNER different?

pSCANNER engages patients and clinicians to participate in network governance and use, including generation of research questions.


How does pSCANNER address security and privacy?

pSCANNER leverages the security and privacy technologies developed by its AHRQ-funded precursor SCANNER.  SCANNER leverages open-source software and industry standards, such as SSL, to safeguard data in situ and in transit. It is designed such that policies for a new system are configurable and applied throughout the network software. Each institution integrates SCANNER virtual machines into their systems, tests them with artificial data, and only initiates participation in the network when comfortable with the use of their real data.


What is pSCANNER’s architecture?

pSCANNER will expand on the distributed architecture developed in SCANNER. SCANNER’s infrastructure was designed based on requirements from major stakeholders in stewardship and use of clinical data for research: patients, researchers, and administrators.  Comparative effectiveness researchers will access the resources at study sites through the pSCANNER portal. The portal will expose applications that can request resources from various sites participating in a study, and integrate the resources to present to the researcher. For example, an application will allow the researcher to compose a query for de-identified data from each site, integrate the results into one data set, and display the results.

SCANNER is comprised of a set of SSL-encrypted Web Services that allow a user to perform distributed statistical analysis on data hosted on remote sites.  Multiple statistical analysis methods are supported via a plug-in architecture, and a defined set of input and output formats provide a consistent I/O interface for each computational plug-in.  The network integrates instances of the pSCANNER Central and Worker nodes.  In order to submit work to the network, a user first authenticates his or her identity to the Portal that upon success presents a web-based graphical user interface to the user.  The Portal interface presents a set of selection controls (based on information stored in the Registry) about what datasets, computational algorithms, and remote nodes are available for the user to execute a query against.  Once a user has selected the criterion for a query and initiates the execution of the query, the Portal then sends the query request to the proper remote Worker nodes, where a number of computational plug-ins with statistical methods are deployed.  Depending on what analysis algorithm was selected, this query process may be iterated multiple times in order to optimize the statistical result.  Once the distributed query completes, the results are collated by the corresponding algorithm’s computational plug-in, and the end results are returned as a single output payload back to the Portal, where it is finally displayed to the user.


How does pSCANNER achieve data standardization and interoperability between systems within its network?

The predominant system in SCANNER and UC-ReX institutions is Epic, while the VA uses the VISTA system.  However, institutions utilizing different EHRs can also participate since the network is based on clinical data warehouses with data extracted from the EHR.  All institutions in pSCANNER have agreed to standardize their data model to the OMOP CDM and will adhere to recognized terminologies, for example ICD-9-CM for diagnosis, CPT for procedures and test orders, and RxNorm for medications.  The standard operating procedures for data harmonization include well-defined steps for data modeling and quality control using tools from the OMOP data management collaborative.  In addition, all data sites will install a SCANNER node (Worker), which will allow studies to be conducted using a distributed architecture that preserves patient privacy.