Using freely accessible databases for laboratory medicine research: experience with MIMIC database
Laboratory medicine research usually focuses on the analytical and clinical aspects of laboratory tests. The analytical aspect of laboratory medicine research includes the following areas: (I) establishment of novel, inexpensive, easily quantified, rapid and reliable assays for laboratory tests; (II) assessment of the performance of an analytical method (e.g., precision, limit of detection, linearity, accuracy, quality control); (III) analytical and pre-analytical errors impacting on the interpretation of a test. The clinical aspect of laboratory medicine research is usually focused on the clinical significance of laboratory tests, including their utility in disease diagnosis, prognosis or disease severity/activity estimation, risk stratification, and treatment monitoring. A critical step in the clinical aspect of laboratory medicine research is data collection, either prospectively or retrospectively. However, staffs in clinical laboratories are not routinely involved in the management of patients, and this situation makes it difficult for them to perform research designed to explore the clinical utility of laboratory tests. During past years, the authors have performed some clinical research in laboratory medicine using the Multiparameter Intelligent Monitoring in Intensive Care II (MIMIC-II), a freely accessible critical care database. The aim of this paper is to describe this database, and share our experiences using it in laboratory medicine research.