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REDCap Support

ITHS REDCap Support Policies

Effective Date January 2020

The Institute of Translational Health Sciences (ITHS) at the University of Washington provides free of charge the use of REDCap™ (Research Electronic Data Capture) software as a service for ITHS member investigators and their teams to collect study data for research purposes, quality improvement, and operational support. REDCap should not be used for daily clinical practice and would not be an alternative to an EMR such as EPIC. This service includes the REDCap application software hosted in a web server, disk space for data storage within reason, regular system backups, software patches and upgrades, basic and advanced training courses, and online documentation.

ITHS implemented REDCap in 2009 and usage has grown steadily to more than 10,000 users and 12,500 projects as of November 2019. Due to this continuing growth, ITHS has adapted the following policies for user support. By adopting the policies set forth in this document we aim to achieve the following goals:

  • To further translational sciences by fostering innovative research
  • Continue the growth and success of the ITHS REDCap instance
  • Continue to provide REDCap users with the resources they need to use the service productively and appropriately
  • Evolve the ITHS REDCap to a self-sustaining service

REDCap was designed to be utilized by a wide variety of skill levels and backgrounds. The user interface makes starting and building projects relatively simple. As REDCap has grown and expanded it has accrued many new features and functionality making mastering of these advanced features more difficult. We implore REDCap users to utilize the following resources, in the suggested order of use, to resolve their issues prior to drawing on our support offerings:

  1. REDCap video tutorials, explanatory text on the REDCap pages, and the Frequently Asked Questions page
  2. REDCap Tip of the Month or other online supplemental documentation provided by ITHS
  3. User education including introductory and advanced classes offered by ITHS
  4. Weekly zoom office hours

If a user does not obtain a solution to a REDCap problem using the above resources, then the user may send an email directly to the administrative ticketing system by emailing iths_redcap_admin@uw.edu. Users can expect a response within 1 business day. Please be aware that our help desk is not operated on a 24-hour schedule and that we are less likely to respond after hours and during holidays. Please plan accordingly when submitting requests in regard to your project deadlines.

To expedite the process, it is suggested that you include some of the following pieces of information with your support request to avoid excess back and forth:

  • Project ID (PID) – the project ID is how we identify which project on our REDCap instance that you require help with. This is usually a 3-6 digit number located in the URL of your project directly behind “pid=”

  • Record number(s) that are experiencing the issue (if applicable)
  • Variable name(s) of fields that are having issue(s) (if applicable)
  • Detailed description of the issue and attempts to resolve the situation
  • If you have multiple smaller questions it may be more suited for our weekly zoom office hours to resolve.

We strongly encourage REDCap users to take full advantage of the resources described above, to thoroughly test projects before requesting that they be moved into Production status, and to protect their projects by making frequent backups of their project data using the Data Export Tool and taking snapshots of their projects’ current data dictionaries. Our policy of responding to user requests to create new projects, copy projects, and review and approve post-production changes, will remain the same as it is now: we will respond within 1 business day.

REDCap Consult Support

If needs for your project lie outside of our normal free support policy or for more customized individual help, you may request support from our consult services. Our consult services operate on a fee per hour basis. This fee per hour is dependent on if you are within the University of Washington institution operating with a UW budget number or an outside entity.

Some common use cases of our consultation services include:

Project design support

Our expert database administrators are available to consult with your team on designing your REDCap project. Your team can describe or provide your protocol and our team will detail how your project should be constructed in REDCap.

e.g. You need to create a study tracking database with adverse events, but you are unsure of the best way to do so. Our team can advise your team on how to best build this project in REDCap to collect data properly.

Project development and build support

Instead of having to learn and build your REDCap project, a member of the REDCap admin team will construct your REDCap project for you.

e.g. Your team needs to create a REDCap project for a new study, but your team doesn’t have experience with REDCap or the time to learn. Our team can create your REDCap project for you to your specifications. We will hand over a fully formed REDCap project that is ready for your data collection.

Database and data migration from other data structures

If you are wishing to move your database from one database structure to another, we can do the build and/or data migration for your archived data.

e.g. Building REDCap project and migrating data from a MS Access database to that REDCap database.

Dynamic SQL fields in REDCap

REDCap normally keep projects as separate silos of data. Dynamic SQL allows you to bridge the gap between projects to allow projects to talk to each other. Although this is limited to admins due to security, we will connect two of your projects together with proper SQL fields.  Although dynamic SQL is the perfect solution for several situations it is not always the right fit for all projects. Please contact us about the proper use and design of this if you are not sure how to utilize it.

e.g. Your protocol requires you to keep your participant identifiers in a separate database from your study data. You can use a Dynamic SQL field to still link up your identity project and your study data project. This will allow you to cross reference during data collection, but won’t store any patient identifiers in the study data project.

Recovering project data and forms lost due to user error

The ITHS REDCap instance is backed up daily. If for whatever reason you need to recover lost data that may have been deleted due to a user error, we can load a recovered image of that database to retrieve lost data.

e.g. You collect data in development mode and then make changes that affect or delete your data. Our team can recover a backup of the database and input your data back into your active project.

External Module validation and adoption into the ITHS REDCap instance

External modules are external pieces of code written by developers who work with other REDCap instances across institutions that can be injected into our REDCap instance much like an app for your phone. They are vetted by Vanderbilt University but can introduce some issues with our REDCap instance. Due to the time and effort it takes to ensure security these external modules are not added to the ITHS REDCap instance without thorough review and safety checks. Please note that if the external module does not pass security checks the external module will not be added to REDCap. Please refer to the ITHS External Module Policy for more information.

e.g. You hear about an external module that is not currently available in the ITHS REDCap instance. Our team will do security checks and review the external module to be possibly integrated into our REDCap instance.

External Module configurations

External modules may require some additional skills to program or setup for a REDCap project. Our team can do the technical setup or programming of these external modules.

e.g. Shazam is an external module that allows you to insert custom HTML to change the appearance of your data collection forms and surveys. This requires knowledge of HTML and the external module to configure correctly. Our team can do custom HTML coding and configure the external module for you, so your form or survey appears as you need it.

Customized group REDCap trainings

For groups of 5 or more we can provide a customized training series to your department or office.

e.g. You have an entire office or department that needs to attend a REDCap 101 class. Instead of sending all your employees to a class that is only available at a specific time on the UW campus, our team will schedule a specialized class for your office at your convenience.

EMR linking (to University of Washington Clinical Systems)

Our REDCap installation is frequently used as a delivery mechanism for data extracts from the UW’s data warehouse. Our consultant team can build a custom project and load it with your dataset. You can then take advantage of the flexibility of REDCap to build upon that dataset or to slice and dice the existing data to your specific needs.

e.g. You are recruiting for a diabetes study and want to do this by email. We can load patient demographics like name and email and have REDCap send out customized link for each patient.

Our consult services are not limited to the list above and we are always eager to take on new and complex projects. If an investigator anticipates the need for these services, please contact the REDCap administrators by emailing iths_redcap_admin@uw.edu to schedule an estimate for your project. Our consult services usually have a queue and operate on a first come, first serve basis so please plan accordingly in advance to assure that projects needs may be met.

We are confident that the policy shift described above will provide the REDCap community with all the resources it needs to fully utilize this software tool with supplemental support and assistance provided by ITHS REDCap administrators.

Please contact us if you would like to get started with a consultation.

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Cite ITHSThe Institute is supported by grants UL1 TR002319, KL2 TR002317, and TL1 TR002318 from the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program (CTSA).

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