Please tell us a bit about yourself?
My education background is in health. I completed my studies at the University of Sydney, where I trained as an Exercise Sports Scientist and Dietitian before completing a Master of Public Health (Professional Practice).
I am currently working as the NSLHD REDCap Administrator, which is a role based in the DASO (Data Analysis and Surgical Outcomes) Unit in the Anaesthetics Department in the Division of Surgery and Anaesthesia at Royal North Shore Hospital.
With your allied health background, how did you end up in the role of REDCap Administrator?
An interest in research led me to complete a Master of Public Health where I was lucky enough to complete an extra semester of Professional Practice where I conducted projects at the Office of Preventive Health.
From there I spent three years as a Research Officer/ Database Manager at the Surgical Outcomes Research Centre in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where I learnt the ins and outs of REDCap, utilising it on a daily basis. My first task involved creating REDCap databases to transfer over 2 SPSS databases with over 20 years of data. I continually developed my knowledge of REDCap to manage the projects resulting in me assisting others with their projects. I enjoyed doing this so much I felt it would be a good opportunity to do it fulltime when this role popped up.
I think coming from a non-technical background actually aids in my ability to help other health professionals with the uptake of REDCap, as the crux of REDCap is that it was built to give researchers an easy platform to do the right things in collecting data for research.
What exactly is REDCap?
REDCap is a secure web based data collection tool for managing online surveys and databases. If you have data or want to collect data, you can essentially make a REDCap project to manage it. As a general guide, a REDCap project consists of records with data in different forms called instruments, which is essentially a page with specific questions for each record in the project. Commonly you will have a project consisting of forms such as demographics, clinical data or survey data and each record will be an individual patient.
What can you use REDCap for?
Whilst REDCap was originally designed for research, its specific capabilities and customisability has seen its uses expand to include quality improvement projects and operational support. There are quite a few clinical audits in our REDCap.
I’ve seen a myriad of uses derived from exploiting the various REDCap capabilities. Some examples include:
- The ability to send surveys, with the responses automatically stored in REDCap. These surveys can be done anonymously or completed by specific respondents on an ongoing basis such as in a longitudinal research study. Survey invitations can also be automated with ongoing reminders sent for incomplete surveys.
- The ability to store files, so consent forms can be uploaded into a patient’s record, even photos or videos, which we’ve had users enquire about storing securely to use for assessment.
- Uploading professional registration documents into REDCap to ensure they were up to date. When registrations were close to expiry, an automated email would be sent to remind staff member to renew/upload registration to REDCap.
- Utilisation of the video embedding capability of REDCap (i.e. link from YouTube/ VIMEO) for staff educational purposes followed by a REDCap survey to check staff understanding of the video, with respondent answers scored using calculated fields.
Who can use REDCap?
Like all institutions that use REDCap, our particular REDCap is licensed for users at NSLHD to collect data for non-commercial purposes (research funded by commercial organisations is ok). So any NSLHD staff member is able to make use of our REDCap to store data for their projects. If we’re the main site for a multi-site research study we also have the capacity to create a project and collaborating staff members from the other sites are able to gain access to our REDCap to add data to that particular project. Data access groups can be created so that users can only view data from their own institution.
Why should someone use REDCap instead of something like Excel?
It really isn’t an either or, as both have their own capabilities, any data in REDCap can be exported to Excel or other statistical packages for additional manipulation. Prior to extraction, the datasets can be de-identified or trimmed to filter out particular data.
The advantages of data collection in REDCap over Excel include:
- Securely stored: Data is captured securely onto an NSLHD Server where it is very difficult to accidentally delete data and every activity is logged so that if data is deleted, a history of the data and any changes by users are provided.
- Access restriction and record locking: Access to particular areas of a project can be restricted as well as viewing/editing capabilities. Records can be further protected by utilising record locking capabilities after initial data entry or requesting reasons for any data modifications. This is much safer than an Excel document where changes can be made without noticing, often times a button is pressed and something is accidentally deleted, or data is compromised by formatting, or Excel crashes and all the data is lost.
- Interactive functions: Using REDCap you are able to survey people directly with the responses going straight into the project. There are more interactive functions such as showing images/videos, uploading files, capturing signatures, utilising visual analogue scales, multiple choice questions, the branching of questions that are linked together, summary stats and charts and the ability to manage studies through the use of a calendar, randomisation and consent capabilities.
- Centralised: REDCap data is stored centrally and is backed up every day. The centralising of data means it is transparent where the data is and the same project can be accessed in multiple locations by multiple individuals at the same time without having to create new versions. All that is required is internet access.
In comparison, where is an excel file located? How easy is it for others to access? Is it password protected? Are there mechanisms in place if the password is forgotten? What happens when someone is storing the file on a random drive and suddenly leaves the organisation or that drive is wiped without a backup?
REDCap’s central storage means that if a project owner abruptly leaves an organisation without handing over their project, I as the REDCap Administrator can easily add another user onto the project. Also since REDCap provides a historical log of every activity on that project and has a codebook and data dictionary it makes it easier for anyone with access to become orientated to the project.
What does your role involve?
As REDCap Administrator, my role is quite varied. As REDCap is still being introduced to the masses at NSLHD, my role essentially provides a fulltime figure for users to request REDCap support in NSLHD whilst supporting its integration into the LHD as a prominent data collection tool. Some duties involve upkeep of the system, account creation and management, user training, troubleshooting, general administrative tasks such as assessing any proposed changes to projects which may affect existing data and general guidance which flows into more specific project assistance. Given the infancy of REDCap at the LHD, in my current capacity I have been able to play a larger role in building larger and complex projects than what I might be able to in the future as the type of day to day support requirements will evolve with a larger user base. I am also building educational materials which are more introductory in nature, reflecting the current status of REDCap. We’re also hoping to organise a regular training schedule, details of which are to be finalised with face to face training not necessarily at the forefront in the current social climate with COVID.
How can people reach you?
My Email is Kenneth.firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 9463 2559
I’m usually contactable between 9-5 on Monday to Friday.
The NSLHD REDCap application can be accessed at https://rnsapmredcap.nslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/redcap/
Eligible users can complete an access request form or request support. I’ve put a few educational materials in there for further REDCap learning.