Clinical data are dynamic in nature, often arranged hierarchically and stored as free text and numbers. Effective management of clinical data and the transformation of the data into structured format for data analysis are therefore challenging issues in electronic health records development. Despite the popularity of relational databases, the scalability of the NoSQL database model and the document-centric data structure of XML databases appear to be promising features for effective clinical data management. In this paper, three database approaches – NoSQL, XML-enabled and native XML – are investigated to evaluate their suitability for structured clinical data. The database query performance is reported, together with our experience in the databases development. The results show that NoSQL database is the best choice for query speed, whereas XML databases are advantageous in terms of scalability, flexibility and extensibility, which are essential to cope with the characteristics of clinical data. While NoSQL and XML technologies are relatively new compared to the conventional relational database, both of them demonstrate potential to become a key database technology for clinical data management as the technology further advances.
- K.K.Y. Lee, W.C. Tang, K.S. Choi. Alternatives to relational database: Comparison of NoSQL and XML approaches for clinical data storage. Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine, vol. 110, no. 1, pp. 99-109, April, 2013. [Science Direct]