Original Research

Using Voogle to Search Within Patient Records in the VA Corporate Data Warehouse

Author and Disclosure Information



Accessing Voogle

Voogle is available on the VA intranet to all authorized users at https://voogle.vha.med.va.gov/voogle. To assure high-level security the application can only be accessed with the Internet Explorer browser using established user identification protocols to avoid unauthorized access or duplicative log-in tasks.


Indexing is user-driven and is required prior to patient selection and term query. The user is prompted for a patient identifier and a date range. The CDW unique patient identifier is used for all internal processing. However, a social security number look-up table is incorporated to facilitate patient selection. The date field defaults to 3 years but can be extended to approximately the year 2000.


Entering the patient name in Lastname, Firstname (no space) format will yield a list of indexed patients. All access is audited in order to deter unauthorized queries. Data from a demonstration patient are displayed in Figures 2, 3, 4, 5,
and 6.

Structured Data Searches

Structured data categories that contain the queried term, as well as a term count, are displayed after the “Structured Data” toggle is selected (Figure 2). After the desired category (Figure 2: “Outpatient Rx”) is selected, Voogle accesses the data file and displays it as a grid (medication list, Figure 3). Filter and sort functions enable display of specific medications, drug classes, or date ranges (Figure 4).

Display of Terms Within Text Notes

Selecting a term from the drop-down list (Figure 5) opens a grid with the term highlighted in a snippet of text (Figure 6). Opening the document displays the context of the term, along with negation terms (ie, not, denies, no, etc) in red font if present. Voogle, unlike other NLP tools that attempt to interpret medical notes, relies on interpretation by the HCP user. Duplicate note fragments will be displayed in multiple notes, often across multiple screens, vividly demonstrating the pervasive use of the copy-and-paste text-entry strategy. Voogle satisfies 2 of the 4 recommendations of the recent report on copy-and-paste by Tsou and colleagues.9 The Voogle text display grid identifies copy-and-pasted text as well as establishes the provenance of the text (by sorting on the date column). Text can be copied from Voogle into an active Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) note if needed for active patient care. Reindexing the following day and then repeating the search will demonstrate the newly copied-and-pasted text appended to the sequence.


Voogle is unable to access all VA patient data currently. There are a dozen or so clinical domains that are indexed by Voogle that include prescriptions, problem lists, health factors, and others. More domains can be added with minimal effort and would then be available for fast search. The most critical deficiency is its inability to access, index, or query text reports stored as images within VistA Imaging. This includes nearly all reports from outside HCPs, emergency department visits or discharge summaries from unlinked hospitals, anesthesia reports, intensive care unit flow sheets, electrocardiograms, as well as numerous other text reports such as pulmonary function reports or sleep studies. Information that is transcribed by the provider into VistA as text (as in the case presented) is available within the CDW and can be found and displayed by Voogle search.

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