PUF Research Program Provides Faster Access to Quality Data

STS News, Winter 2017 -- With the launch of the STS Participant User File (PUF) Research Program last fall, participants in the STS National Database now have the opportunity to request national-scale de-identified data for use in research projects.

The PUF Program was designed primarily as an affordable option for investigators to pose research questions, quickly obtain quality data, analyze these data themselves with appropriate biostatistics resources, receive feedback, and develop their efforts into abstracts and manuscripts.

"Over the last several years, it had become clear that STS members wanted to use our data locally and that local use would increase the amount of research using STS data," said Fred H. Edwards, MD, Chair of the STS Workforce on Research Development. "After a recent strategic planning meeting, a group was formed to develop an approach that would allow the concept to become a reality."

Felix G. Fernandez, MD is serving as Chair of the PUF Task Force, which will review applications by focusing on various key criteria, including the scientific merit of the proposed research, the feasibility of the research, overlap with ongoing approved STS research, and the analytic resources available to the investigative team.

"The goal of the PUF Program is to make it easier and quicker for programs to access data, while maintaining the high quality of all publications that use STS data," said David M. Shahian, MD, Chair of the STS Council on Quality, Research, and Patient Safety.

For some researchers, the PUF Program may be an alternative to the STS Access & Publications program. There are some key differences between the programs, however.

"Since the PUF data are de-identified, you can’t link them to long-term data, such as Medicare data,” Dr. Shahian explained. “Also, the data received through the PUF Program are analyzed by the requesting institution, rather than the Duke Clinical Research Institute, which is why we require that submissions include a qualified biostatistician on the investigational team."

The Task Force began accepting applications for data in the Adult Cardiac Surgery component of the Database last fall. Data from the General Thoracic Surgery Database and Congenital Heart Surgery Database will become available in early 2017.

More information about the PUF Program can be found at www.sts.org/PUF.

Eligibility for participation in the PUF Research Program is limited to STS National Database surgeon participants and research scientists affiliated with STS National Database hospital participants in good standing.

If you have questions about the PUF Program, contact STS Research Director Robert Habib at Robert Habib.