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Taming ‘biggish’ data
  1. Charles McDermott1,
  2. Paul Robert Greig1,2,
  3. Alan Inglis1,
  4. Rosemary Warren1,
  5. Helen Higham1,3
  1. 1 OxSTaR, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Department of Anaesthetics, Guy’s and St. Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Anaesthetics, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Charles McDermott, OxSTaR, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; charles.mcdermott{at}

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Data can be powerful, it can illustrate an organisation’s health; report progress; justify costs and highlight areas for improvement. However, collecting and managing large amounts of data has its challenges. Spreadsheets and paper records work for simple datasets but become increasingly hard to organise and prone to error as data demands rise.1 2 This report aims to highlight some of the tools and technologies available today for making sense of data in the context of a healthcare education centre.


Oxford Simulation Teaching and Research (OxSTaR) is the University of Oxford’s simulation centre. Over 2500 healthcare professionals attend over 250 courses per annum. We needed a robust system to capture, safely store and report data from a rapidly growing portfolio of training and research activity. Design of a new database provided several advantages over our pre-existing methods of data management. Unlike an assortment of spreadsheets and paper files, databases allow for superior organisation of big datasets.1 They also provide a centralised, single point of access, giving staff more control, simultaneous access to the system and improved security/backup.1

In addition, we wanted to address the issue that our current systems lacked interoperability. Databases can provide the basis for a connected information technology (IT) system; they are designed to integrate with other applications, extending the versatility and usefulness of a data system.1 Later in the report, we explore applications …

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  • Contributors CM designed and delivered the data management system. AI, RW and HH proposed the commercial product. All authors contributed critical feedback and testing of the systems. CM wrote the manuscript in consultation with PRG, RW and HH. Supporting documents were created by CM.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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