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I'm a surgeon, just starting my career. I'm hoping / planning to accumulate a 30-year dataset of surgical patients, with one or several procedures associated with each patient. Each procedure will have several outcome measures that are either shared between all procedures (eg wound infection) or specific to the procedure (eg recurrence of a hernia after surgery). Each procedure also has 1-5 codes associated with it--there is a standard set of codes, and several codes may apply to one procedure. An Excel spreadsheet seems less than ideal for this sort of nested or flexible dataset, and I was hoping for recommendations from the community. My ideal final product will also be flexible enough to export the dataset, so I'm not locked in to 2010 technology. I'll use the data to document my individual complication / success rate, experience with different procedures, and report case series in the medical literature.

Any suggestions would be great.

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On a scale of 30 years, you will probably change technologies several times. So at each step, be very careful about vendor lock-in. Only go for software that is able to export the data in some very widely-supported format. And make regular backups in that format. –  Gilles Dec 14 '10 at 0:32
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5 Answers 5

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There is a lot of Open Source Medical/Healthcare software out there (I checked a lot out for a previous job in the veterinary world) - there might be something here that will do what you want or will put you in touch with some useful contacts for advice:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_open_source_healthcare_software

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Thanks for the help, folks. I'm exploring DHIS 2, a medical database software that was on the wikipedia list from Linker3000. It seems to be built around a more object-based model than SQL and Access, which seem (to my poorly qualified mind) to be relational databases. My data have different fields depending on which procedure(s) I do, which is a bit hard to cram into a traditional relational database. Does this make sense? Any other thoughts? Thanks! –  Ben Dec 14 '10 at 23:40
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My suggestion is that (unless you are familiar with database design) you start with Microsoft Access. It's a gentler learning curve and should give you an easier idea how to start, rather than diving into a better database.

It's also pretty easy to use MS tools set up forms for data entry and you can make surprisingly complicated graphs and statistics from Excel.



Later if you are serious about this and want to do some serious data-mining on this data you may eventually run into limitation on what you can do with access+excel. That's the time to take a look at your data and with (hopefully) greater experience and a clearer goal of what you want, export all your data and put it into a more appropriate tool (this might be another more powerful database or it might be some other data-mining tool)

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You may want to look at MySQL as a free and widely developed database backend.

For something like this it would be helpful to have it Web based as to make it more easily accessible ( taking in to consideration HIPAA requirtements first of course.)

To manage the database, phpMyAdmin is a good choice due to it's widespread acceptance. Most web hosts will support MySQL / phpMyAdmin, and there is a large community of users that can help you.

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You should do some research and try to find out if someone else already implemented something similar. Why reinvent the wheel?

Looking at your requirements i think you need a "real" application, not just a database (which Access is not - IMHO). I'm sure you want to extend your requirements and your application in the coming 30 years.

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How is Access not a database? That's an indefensible comment! –  Dave Becker Jan 29 '12 at 6:29
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You could have a look at LyteRAD :

A Code-free framework to build desktop, mobile and web-based database applications. Reduce development time drastically.

Build your own solutions in minutes. You can now build custom software that precisely matches your need with no coding. So lightweight that you can run it on a netbook without hitches.

If you like the free version, an unlimited Pro version will cost $160.
(note: I have no personal experience with this product.)

Please note that for one database software to exist as-is for 30 years is an impossible expectation. You should decide on a database product using several criteria.

First, after gaining some experience in using it, your best bet is probably to construct a virtual machine for the database. That way you will be safe (at least for a decade) from your hardware and operating changing on you.

Second, the product you choose should have an export function to some standard format that is universally supported. This will give you an escape route from this database product and to the next one.

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