The Newsletter for Research Professionals: may 2011
Health care research is an on-going, vibrant and developing field of research with unique opportunities as well as responsibilities. Employers seeking researchers in the health care field often look for special qualities when hiring which may include people skills, compassion and discretion, depending on the position. Health research has unique considerations which must be understood. It is therefore worthwhile knowing some special aspects of health care research that may be of particular interest to an employer in terms of specialized knowledge. For those interested in finding work in this rewarding research field ResearchNetwork.com has numerous postings for health care researchers online now.
Informatics in health Research
Informatics in health care is a component of medical research that health science researchers should be well versed in, or at least aware of, to ensure the special relationships between health care providers and patients is protected and to enable the ethical considerations of confidentiality to be met. In this increasingly technological world, professionals are challenged to keep up with advances in informatics to retain optimal research skills. These are the basics that every health related researcher should know.
Key information management technologies used in health care include knowledge management databases; portfolio, program and project management databases; education and research databases; clinical informatics databases; health records and health informatics service management. Donor registries are possibly the most beneficial information management systems from a health care practitioner view and to transplant departments around the world. For medical staff they are a quick reference to critical information at a time when it is likely that time is of the essence.
These databases are also valuable research tools providing ongoing longitudinal and detailed patient and procedural data. There is significant benefit when these databases are linked with multiple medical databases allowing for continuous care for medical events after intervention. Many of these databases are proprietary and could be improved or enhanced by linking with international registries and by providing cross registry information.
Data Warehouses, Data Mining & Databases in Practice
Medical data warehouses, due to the large volume of complicated data, can run the risk of becoming overcrowded and onerous. Efficient warehousing, access and data mining systems create processes for this information to be stored and utilized better. In order to make data warehousing useful it is necessary to choose adequate data mining algorithms. These sets of methods for data analysis are implemented with the goal of finding out specific dependence, relations and rules related to data and churning them out in new, higher-level, quality information. Online analytical processing is usually available to medical informatics practitioners in a hybrid which stores indexes and aggregations in a multidimensional form, while the rest of the data is stored in a relational database. Where multiple facilities share indexes and aggregations central warehouses are increasingly used to provide replication services to preclude overload and redundancies. By using these central warehouses for data mining health care researchers can glean the relationships between variables they need to know.
Data Integrity and Security
Genetic Algorithm (GA) is a popular technique used to find the optimum of transformation, because of its simple implementation procedure. In image processing GAs are used as a parameter/search procedure. This type of processing requires very high performance computer systems but is value for money based on results. Parallel processing is used with GAs to reduce search times by distributing the appropriate amount of work to various computers in a clustering system or cloud. The processing time reduces with the number of dedicated computers. It is an excellent retrieval technique but every system within health care must place security high on the priority list if these systems are to be successfully used within the health care environment.
Medical facilities adopt information technology to reduce costs and to improve efficiency and quality. Medical researchers’ data mine to exploit clinical data and discover knowledge lying implicitly in individual patient health records. This is a relatively new concept and these uses of clinical data will potentially affect healthcare because the patient/provider relationship depends on very high levels of trust. If a patient feels their information may be misused or compromised they are likely to withhold or skew information. Some security measures that can be used to mitigate these concerns include; informatics researchers cultivating effective relationships with medical centers’ HIPAA Privacy and Security Officers, implementation of intrusion detection software, and introduction of the same general processes to support analyses done for the purpose of healthcare operations as for research. If a medical database is breached the implications are far reaching and potentially devastating. Intrusion detection software is often very effective in shutting down access swiftly once an intrusion is identified.
While informatics present the medical world with new challenges of understanding and process implementation, the benefits of data sharing and mining are potentially phenomenal to the world of medical research. The use of analytical processing and aggregation makes for systems which are efficient and with minimized redundancy or information clutter. Warehousing allows for sharing of information without compromising security and LAN (local area network) intrusion detection technologies, combined with comprehensive security policies all serve to provide sufficient in house security measures. When all of these aspects of informatics are implemented the technology presents a wonderful tool for researchers.
"Medical science has proven time and again that when the resources are provided, great progress in the treatment, cure, and prevention of disease can occur."
Michael J. Fox
Considerations for Research in psychology
In psychology, more than any other health or science research, ethical considerations regarding patient rights and privacy are paramount. The methods used to research will be dependent upon the type of research being sought.
Research Methods & Ethical and Scientific Considerations
For research to be valid it will be culturally appropriate and relevant for extracting the information needed to establish or refute a hypothesis. By selecting the correct research method the researcher is more likely to garner the information needed to establish a scientific basis for argument. The research question will often determine the best method. Using observational and correlational methods, researchers can observe and record patterns of behavior and corresponding or correlational events or behaviors. That is, whether certain behaviors or events have consistent outcome patterns. In this way researchers can predict behavior.
Researcher's use experimental design methods to determine whether changing a single element, will create a change in other elements. The purpose of experimental design is to establish the cause of a particular behavior by altering a factor that leads to the behavior. Within quasi-experimental designs the same purpose and goal exists as with experimental design but the researcher is limited by the number of variables that are possible within the experiment setting.
In most cases the research question will establish the best research method to use. For instance where description and prediction are required to answer the research question, observational and correlational design tools will best glean the data required to answer the question. Likewise a research question is best served by experimental or quasi experimental design.
In every case the scientific validity of the study will be based upon careful evaluation of the variables and the environment of the study. By noting and factoring for cultural differences and characteristics of study participants, the study outcomes are better interpreted and more valid. One way to establish how culture and characteristics may impact upon study results is to build upon previous research which may reveal study patterns, inconsistencies or contradictions in experimental studies where culture or character have come into play.
In cases which are not single case studies, limitations can be mitigated by using specific individuals in the research. Other research limitations may include the researcher’s ability or inability to alter variables, a limited range of research participants and ethno-culturalism as it pertains to the researcher’s inherent and preconceived ideas.
All research involving people must be undertaken with integrity and respect for the participants or stakeholders. If it appears for any reason that the reason for a course of study is in conflict with the best interests of a patient(s) then an ethical dilemma exists and must be resolved.
tHIS month’s NUMERO UNO job interview TIP:
Health science researchers require a number of unique qualities. In order to assure a potential employee that you have these special skills be prepared with stories of past experience which show you have been discreet. Handling sensitive situations is also valuable in this field and it will help if you can show how you have done this before as well.
“Medicine, the only profession that labors incessantly to destroy the reason for its existence."
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