A New Tool for Clinical Quality Improvement

October 25, 2016

Author: Chris Markle, Healthcare Analyst at ESAC, Inc.

On October 20, 2016, during another great “Cooking with CQL” webinar, a new tool silently debuted. CQL Online was used a digital whiteboard during Bryn Rhodes engaging exposition of how to use the Clinical Quality Language to support semantic interoperability of clinical concepts.

As a powerful domain specific programming language, CQL allows the user to express complex clinical concepts in an intuitive, near english-looking manner that programmers and clinicians alike can read and write with minimal learning curve. To make the adoption of CQL even easier, the development team at ESAC Inc has released CQL Online, a free online syntax directed editor.

CQL Online is designed to promote “sand-box” learning by allowing the user to play with the language and get instant feedback. This tool performs instant syntax checking, suggested code completion, even conventional formatting assistance. For the “power user”, CQL Online allows simultaneous parallel editors to be utilized in a familiar tabbing environment.

In its current form, CQL Online is built using Xtext 2.9.2 and Ace softwares. To accomplish this the ESAC team re-wrote the original CQL grammar (ANTLR 4) into an Xtext compatible form (similar to ANTLR 3). This has allowed rapid deployment and debugging of the software. Using an Ace editor makes CQL Online clean and lightweight, perfect for embedding in any web application. Let’s not forget, CQL Online is free to use AND free to re-deploy. Any developer interested in only using CQL Online’s editor can embed it directly into their site as an iframe, no strings attached.

ESAC Inc will continue to support CQL Online as updates to standards arise. Be on the look out for further improvements to the UI (Save/Load capabilities, fast tabbing, ELM generation, etc).

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We are quite impressed with not only by the technical skills provided by ESAC's software engineers but also by the depth and breadth of their subject matter experts who have provided guidance on standards and interoperability, quality assurance, and project management issues.


ESAC significantly improved the quality of bioinformatics applications of the NCI CBIIT program using industry best practices to ensure systems were validated both functionally and scientifically for use by the community.

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ESAC's technical savvy and personable staff provides tremendous value to projects involving multi-center coordination and high dimensional data management. They merge a fundamental understanding of biology with expertise in data quality control and data security. Integrating all of these factors is key to delivering a secure and fast data portal for the scientific community.

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ESAC continues to be an exceptional collaborator providing on-site contractors with both the expertise for building new tools and data integration platforms, and the subject matter expertise in the biosciences needed to manage projects and provide significant added value beyond the technology development.

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