The CRI-managed instance of i2b2 allows researchers to query the Clinical Research Data Warehouse to explore available data and identify potential research cohorts. The Chicago-area Shared Health Research Information Network (SHRINE) pilot program builds on this capability and expands it across a wider array of data sources.

SHRINE brings together the CTSA and informatics groups at three local research institutions: Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Chicago. All three institutions currently have or will soon implement both i2b2 and VIVO, a web application that allows users to search for researchers by various criteria across a network of participating organizations.

The SHRINE project leverages this existing infrastructure to create a common tool that can query data repositories at all participating institutions. Researchers will be able to specify inclusion and exclusion criteria including demographics, diagnoses, and medications and receive patient counts meeting their criteria from not just their own institutions, but from all hospitals and heath care programs participating in the network. Similar to i2b2, this tool will protect patient privacy by returning only aggregate counts.

The cohort counts returned by i2b2 queries enable investigators to generate better-informed hypotheses, identify potential cohorts for clinical trials, and develop stronger grant applications. Combining the research data from multiple institutions will not only enhance these existing benefits but will encourage collaboration across institutions and enable the planning of research that requires large sample sizes not easily available at individual locations, including research in population health and health services.

The Chicago-area SHRINE is seen as a key component in the CTSA grant renewal process and will be an important part of a growing federated research portfolio that will give the University of Chicago a competitive advantage among its peers in procuring grant funding. Through our partnership with the Institute for Translational Medicine, the CRI is playing a key role in developing this local network of de-identified patient data. Building on our previous efforts in deploying i2b2 to our research community, CRI staff are providing technical, regulatory, and research guidance on the project. With the initial proof-of-technology phase of the project successfully completed, we are now focused on the next phase, to include sharing of cohort counts among the member institutions.