health data (everything

VA readies cloud-based data platform

Over the years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has made substantial investments in collecting and providing health and genomic data for VA researchers, but its Austin, Texas, Information and Technology Center’s limited storage space and computing power is restricting the usefulness of that data.

Now the VA wants to expand access to a broader research community with the VA Data Commons (VADC), a secure cloud-based data resource.

VA is partnering with the University of Chicago on the Data Commons software-as-a-service platform. VADC will provide an interoperable resource for researchers accessing de-identified electronic medical records and genomic data.  It features computing infrastructure, co-located data and commonly used software services, tools, and apps for managing, analyzing and sharing data.

The university will host and provide access to VADC, so researchers can manage, analyze, synchronize and share clinical data from the VA corporate data warehouse, genomic data from the VA’s Million Veterans Program and other designated VA data sources.

VADC will be operable in multiple cloud platforms including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Over the last two years, the university has worked to customize its Gen-3 environment and software to meet the VA’s specific data analysis, security and privacy requirements, according to an Aug. 20 contract justification. This includes hosting the genetic research data and installing and configuring software that will allow VA users to define and characterize the patient cohort for each project in ways not possible previously in on-prem hardware.

Additionally, the university integrated its platform with VA’s login process, allowing agency researchers to use their PIV card authentication to login to VADC. It has paid for an independent security assessment of its system and is in the process of obtaining FedRAMP certification, which will pave the way for an extended authority to operate.

The University of Chicago has developed and operated similar data commons for the National Institutes of Health and has run commons services operations center to manage the operations of multiple data commons on both private and public clouds, including the security and compliance related procedures and controls.

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