PMACS Penn Medicine Academic Computing Services

PMACS NewsletterWinter 2021

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Content from Christine Vanzandbergen and Chris Dymek

Analytics and Research Aligned to Propel New Transformation

Christine Vanzandbergen

Photo of Christine Vanzandbergen

As I write these opening remarks, I find myself inspired by all that I have learned over the past 5 months in my new role as vice president for analytics and research in Information Services. The partnership between researchers, clinicians, operational colleagues, and information services continues to amaze me. The solidarity demonstrated in working together to support the Penn Medicine mission is met with boundless enthusiasm, collaboration, and relentless dedication of all parties. In working closely with many colleagues across UPHS over the past 20 years, I am honored to have shared many achievements in working to advance patient care and welcome this new opportunity to partner with the dedicated research community in the Perelman School of Medicine.

This new role was recently designed to be a melding of responsibilities for what had been two separate leadership roles, one dedicated to analytics and one to research. This combined leadership focus is intended to further align resources, services and knowledge across information services. With this new alignment, we are now uniquely positioned to support continued advances in research and maximize our investments in our analytics platform. I look forward to embracing this transformative time and the opportunities and challenges that will come along the journey.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any questions, observations, or concerns.

Christine Vanzandbergen, MPH, PA-C

Vice President Analytics and Research

Penn Medicine Corporate Information Services

Cell: 215-410-7316

Introduction of Perelman School of Medicine EIO

Chris Dymek

Photo of Chris Dymek

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as the inaugural entity information officer (EIO) for the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM). The EIO role is a longstanding one at Penn Medicine and serves to liaise between information services and their entity’s constituents. As your EIO, I am committed to working to improve PSOM’s place between UPHS and the University. 

Currently, my team is focused on several projects which will improve the long-term operations of PSOM. We are currently working with ISC to deploy the next generation PennFlex phone system. We are also working to deploy the PSOM network to all of our supported users, which allows for direct connectivity to UPHS systems. Finally, we’re working with all the PSOM departments to reduce our dependency on Windows 7. Over the coming months, we will continue to look for opportunities to streamline our connections between UPHS and the University. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any inquiries or comments you may have. 

Chris Dymek, MBA, PMP 

Penn Medicine Information Services | Entity Information Officer, Perelman School of Medicine 

Office 215-898-9714 | Cell 267-738-7953 

Enterprise Research Applications

Penn Biobank Goes Electronic with Universal Patient Screening Consent

Biobanking at Penn Medicine primarily relied on having research coordinators perform in-person patient consents to facilitate the collection of sampling for research. By gathering consents this way, it limited the scope of collection because large amounts of resources were needed to consent patients and draw samples. Our Clinical Research Information Systems (CRIS) team worked with the biobank team to integrate the Penn Medicine Biobank (PMBB) research consent into the electronic health record. The workflow was designed to be facilitated through standard check-in procedures, including check-in through the myPennMedicine patient portal.  

Additionally, a new blood draw order and workflow were also developed to allow sample collection when patients receive their standard of care labs.  The Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) team partnered with PMBB to enable them to receive samples into LabVantage LIMS by scanning the clinical barcode on the blood tube. PMBB is able to track derivative samples in freezers and as they flow to collaborating laboratories. 

Finally, the Data Analytics Center (DAC) and LIMS teams developed an integration that allows the collected samples to be matched to the patient that donated the sample using an automated process.  This completes the end to end, all electronic and automated process by which consent is obtained, samples are ordered, collected, and matched back to the consenting patient. 

Since implementation of this new consent and collection method, the effort has exponentially increased the rate of consents generated in the health system and increased the number of patients eligible to have samples collected. Please visit the Penn biobank website: for more information.

Penn’s Lab Information Management System (LIMS) Expands through our Enterprise

Penn Medicine investigators are constantly engaged in pursuing cutting edge scientific exploration across the translational research spectrum.  As described above, the Penn Medicine BioBank is working to collect samples to enable research at the beginning of that spectrum.  Other groups are working toward developing innovative advancements in research at the clinical trial end of the translational path.   

The Abramson Cancer Center Clinical Research Unit (ACC CRU) continues to adopt our LIMS system to manage their portfolio of clinical trial sample collection kits with 9 of the 12 study teams (75%) now using the system. The remaining teams are currently being implemented or scheduled for onboarding. In total, our LIMS has brought 106 studies into the system and is tracking in excess of 10K sample collection kits. Recently, the LIMS team has added additional reports and dashboards to help the CRU make the data in the system more actionable and to help drive operations.   

The Cellular Vaccine Production Facility (CVPF) has just gone live with new tools to provide transparency of sample locations as they move about their team. These new tools replace a legacy, stand-alone system with LIMS where samples can be tracked and ultimately have assay results attached to them.  Sample information includes the current status (scheduled, ready for pickup, in transit, delivered) as well as the intended location, the custodian, and the purpose for that specific sample (assay, storage, transfer). The LIMS team and CVPF have recently completed migrating this capability to our LIMS. The CVPF studies are in fact the same studies already implemented in the LIMS for another part of the Center for Cellular Immunity (CCI), the Translational and Correlative Studies Laboratory (TCSL), which operates downstream from CVPF. The next phase of the project will involve samples seamlessly flowing to/from CVPF to TCSL – pre-labeled and pre-annotated – thus saving time and materials around sample labeling. 

Simultaneously, the LIMS team continues to support existing clients by adding new studies and responding to on average 95 service requests per month. We look forward to continued growth in our user base and consolidation of research laboratory information support into one enterprise-supported system, enabling collaboration through data sharing and inter-laboratory sample tracking. 

Please reach out if you are interested in learning more. We are happy to meet and discuss where we can help and determine how we can develop a schedule for starting that process. Feel free to reach out directly by emailing  Ned Haubein, Senior Applications Manager of Enterprise Research Application Systems


Trusted Connection between the PSOM and Penn Medicine Networks

Work has been completed between PSOM and Penn Medicine networks that now permits increased access to resources across the scope of our combined operations. This large integration effort supports a strategic goal of merging the research and educational missions of PSOM with the world class patient care of Penn Medicine in a more efficient method. The benefits from this work are: 

  • Increased productivity for all users to have uninterrupted workflows by alleviating the need to connect to different networks that interrupts access to core systems.  

  • Supported PSOM Users can access the many Penn Medicine intranet sites, applications and platforms and core services more readily versus using UPHS network ports, UPHS VPN or Penn Medicine Access Portal.  

  • Penn Medicine users can access PSOM resources including research systems, data stores and research computing resources.  

  • Increased security by having one connection point into each network that can be secured, monitored and managed by the Penn Medicine Information Security Team.  

Automated Patching of User Workstations

There is a wide variety of user devices on the PSOM network ranging from administration, general purpose, laboratory operations, research, analytics, and equipment control machines (ECMs). With increased security awareness and potential threats to our operations, we needed to develop a more effective means of patching.  Patching is the routine updating of security and operating system software of a workstation. Doing so ensures the high availability of these devices to allow for minimal interruptions in user workflows and operations. Our CSG technical team tests all patches prior to the next automated deployment date which reduces potential negative operational impact for user devices significantly while dramatically increasing our “patch level” across our supported operations. Our patching process also includes the Microsoft Office productivity suite for local device installations. The benefits from this work are: 

  • Reduced security event risks through the ability to push patches and high patch levels via frequent, scheduled updates 

  • Lowered interruptions of user workflow and PSOM operations by ensuring high availability from rapid deployment of recommended security and stability patches 

  • Ability to quickly respond to Penn Medicine Information Security bulletins and critical incidents 

  • Reduced effort requirements for our Client Services Group having to manually update devices 

  • Centralized validation of required patch level(s) of devices for compliant agreements such as grants, data use agreements, collaborative agreements, biotechnology and pharmaceutical contracts and memorandums of understanding 

  • Increased user productivity using Microsoft Office by allowing for added features, stability improvements, compatibility and security updates via frequent, scheduled patches 

Information Services Advisory Center (Isaac)

Ask Isaac Virtual Office Hours

Virtual Office Hours are scheduled for the remainder of the year!  The Isaac team will be available during the dates and times below. 

Wednesday, December 15th 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. 

Click here to save this event on your calendar.    

During these office hours, we will focus on recent Isaac frequently asked questions that have been highlighted in this newsletter.  We will also answer your IS-related questions on a wide variety of topics. Stay for the whole hour, or hop on, hop off.  Can't make a session? Submit an Isaac request online!   


Information Assurance

Staying Safe Using Social Media

Social media can be a wonderful doorway to the world – an easy way to organize an event, share happy news, or stay in touch with loved ones. Unfortunately, some bad comes with the good. Social media can pose some dangers as well.  

 Be cautious in how much information you share publicly about yourself. Bad actors trawl through your data looking for ways into your accounts. Do not post about your upcoming plans to be away from home (an empty house could be robbed) or share your birth date or year or your address (you could get your identity stolen).  

 Do not post confidential or proprietary information (e.g., business practices, financial interests, or similar sensitive or private information) about Penn Medicine, its employees, patients, or alumni, and do not post patient information under any circumstances. Be careful with photos – make sure not to inadvertently include patient images or information in a picture you post (on screens or documents that are within view, for example).  

Remember that anything you post on social media is public or may easily be made public, and disclosure of patient information that violates HIPAA may result in civil and criminal penalties.

Here are some ways to stay safe on social media:

  • Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on each account – keep your account secure!  

  • Do not reuse passwords from one social network to another.  

  • Be careful with how much personal information you share – too many sensitive details (e.g., where you bank or when you plan to vacation) can be risky in the wrong hands.  

Protect sensitive and proprietary information. Do not post anything to social media that could identify, on its own or together with other available information, a Penn Medicine patient. 

Client Services Group (CSG)

PennFlex Phone Migrations

The efforts to migrate the University’s phone service from Verizon to the new Vonage platform (known as PennFlex) continues. PSOM has over 4,200 phone lines, with over 1,500 already moved over to the new platform. Migrations are scheduled two months out, so please watch your inbox for an email from “PennFlex Phone Migration” for your migration details. 

PennFlex offers several advantages over the previous phone service. The most significant is that in addition to having a traditional handset on your desk, you can now take your phone number “to go”. Vonage offers a soft phone app that you can install on mobile phones, tablets, and computers so you can send and receive calls without revealing your personal phone number. Visit the PennFlex Phone website for more information. 

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