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HCSI 709: Healthcare Databases. Introduction to Database Structures By Farrokh Alemi, Ph.D. Francesco Loaiza, Ph.D. J.D. Voice of Vikas Arya. Objectives. Learn about flat, hierarchical and relational databases Learn about information-less databases.

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hcsi 709 healthcare databases

HCSI 709: Healthcare Databases

Introduction to Database Structures

By Farrokh Alemi, Ph.D.

Francesco Loaiza, Ph.D. J.D.

Voice of Vikas Arya

  • Learn about flat, hierarchical and relational databases
  • Learn about information-less databases

If checking an information item takes a fraction of a second, why is it that we can go through billions of information items in a fraction of a second?

types of data structures
Types of Data Structures
  • Flat data
  • Hierarchical data
  • Relational data
flat data
Flat Data


  • Most software include free access to flat data files.  For a small number of cases, flat databases do a reasonably fast job.


  • Flat databases waste computer storage by requiring it to keep information on items that logically cannot be available.
  • Flat databases are not conducive to complicated search queries
relational databases

Relational Databases

In a relational data base, one stores a record with related fields as data.

In a relational database, tables do not need to be of the same size


Table for "Students grades" 

Table for "Students' contact information"

advantages of relational databases
Advantages of Relational Databases
  • Data can be examined from many different perspectives. 
  • No need to enter missing information for variables that are not logically possible.
  • Easy to modify because adding new concepts involves adding new Tables, not altering old ones.
hierarchical models

Hierarchical models

Data models in which the relationship between higher and lower items are inherited.

example of hierarchal model
Example of Hierarchal Model
  • File items on your desk top
advantages of hierarchical models
Advantages of Hierarchical Models


  • Operations on parents save time and affect all children.


  • Many relationships are not hierarchical
distributed data models

Distributed data models

Data are kept in different settings and on different computers. Distributed databases need not only addresses for where the data are but also need an audit trail

advantages of distributed databases
Advantages of Distributed Databases
  • Security of these databases are difficult to maintain.
  • Many agreements must be made ahead of time.
  • Data loss is limited to nodes affected.
  • Decentralized databases are more flexible and allow different units to update and maintain their own data. 
  • Variation in quality of data
data less information systems

Data-less Information Systems

Distributed Databases without data until need arises, less problems with privacy of patients

components of a data less system
 Components of a Data-less System
  • Decoder  
  • Communicator  
  • Analysis
advantages of the data less information systems
Advantages of the Data-less Information Systems
  • The system is substantially less expensive than centralized registries as it requires no new equipment and little personnel.
  • The use of the system does not require vague and time-independent patients’ consents.
  • The system does not require duplication of data in different databases.
take home lesson

Take Home Lesson

Structure makes it possible to process and analyze large amount of data