Helpful tips and frequently asked questions

This page highlights the many useful tips and questions we have received since 2002. Many of the questions have come from the hospital data mangers who have regular contact with the Mass-DAC team.  Each set of questions is categorized based on the type of users who visit our site and how they interact with Mass-DAC.  Each question within a set is prefixed with an italicized sub-category tag that defines a focus area.

Most answers in this FAQ are brief, so when more detail is required a link to a post with additional information is included.  If you can not find the answer to your question here please feel free to contact us using the contact form or directly using our e-mail address  We are always happy to assist with your questions and any suggestions you have on your mind.

Using the website

  • Contact: Who receives the e-mail sent to the e-mail address?

    When you send e-mail to, this mail is received by the Project Assistant, Caroline Wood, Project Manager, Ann Lovett, and Senior Data Manager, Matthew Cioffi.  If your question needs to be directed towards another member or advisor, we will forward it to the appropriate person.

  • RSS Feed: What is the RSS feed orange button at the bottom of most pages, or in the subscription sidebar? Why should I use it?

    RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. It is a format for delivering regularly changing web content (e.g., news headlines, post updates). An RSS feed includes summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship of recently updated pages.

    RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web, allowing them to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites of interested. RSS saves time by stopping the need to visit each site individually and ensure privacy, by not needing to join a site’s email newsletter.

  • Search: Besides the search box, how else can I find relevant information on this website?

The “category search” drop down box in the footer of the page, and the categories/tags listed at the bottom of each post can be clicked to bring up posts of similar content.  If you know the original post date, the “archives” drop down box in the footer would be helpful to get lists posted within the same month.

Physician / researcher

  • Data: How can I apply to use the Mass-DAC cardiac registry data?

    To start the process of using Mass-DAC cardiac registry data, please use the applications on the Research Proposals page.  In 2014 a new application and fee schedule will be implemented by the Department of Public Health to help cover overhead associated with Mass-DAC staff assistance and analysis on the research project.

  • Data: What is the difference between the de-identified Mass-DAC cardiac registry data set available through the Department of Public Health and the cardiac registry data used by Mass-DAC?

    The Mass-DAC registry data housed in the Department of Health Care Policy has all patient identifiers and can only be used internally by Mass-DAC staff that have been approved by the project IRB. To use this data, you must complete the proposal request form and have it reviewed by the publications committee, DPH, and the Massachusetts RADAR committee if the Mass-DAC data is to be merged with Acute Hospital Case Mix data.

    The de-identified data available through DPH, must be applied for using the DPH application process to request a data use agreement. The de-identified data set may be housed in a secure location determined by the data use agreement and you can do the analysis using your own staff.

Data manager

  • Excel: How do I use the integrated Excel Data Entry Form?

    Excel has a default Data Entry Form that helps to navigate records in a sheet using a pop-up dialog box.  For more information go to the Excel Data Entry Form post.

  • Harvest: Who do I contact to request an extension on the Mass-DAC data harvest?

    To request an extension on a data harvest submission, please contact the Project Manager Ann Lovett (617-432-0005) or the Senior Data Manager Matthew Cioffi (432-0246-1345) with the reason an extension is needed.

  • Meeting: Where can I get a copy of the data manager meeting minutes?

    The data manger meeting minutes, hand-outs and agenda are uploaded to the Mass-DAC secure document repository “massdac_documents/SharedDocs” folder.

  • Password: I forgot my password to the Harvard Medical School Secure VPN login page and have been locked out.  How do I reset my password?

    To reset your password, you must go to the Harvard Medical School eCommons login page, and click on the “I Forgot My Password” link below the log-in box.

  • Password: I forgot my password to the Mass-DAC secure document repository, and have been locked out.  How do I reset my password?

    Please contact the Senior Data Manager, Matthew Cioffi by e-mail or phone, 617-432-0246.  He will create a new temporary password and notify you with the change. Upon first log-in, you will need to change the password to something only you know.

  • PGP: How do I create a new PGP key or import a new PGP key received from Mass-DAC?

    Please see the post PGP: Creating, Sharing and Importing Keys.

  • PGP: How do I encrypt multiple files using the PGP Desktop?

    Please see the post PGP: Creating an Encrypted Signed Archive.

  • PGP: When I double click a decrypted file in PGP Desktop, it does not open, what do I do?

    In order to view the contents of a file decrypted in PGP, you must first extract the file from PGP Desktop and save it to your computer or network system. To extract a file from PGP Desktop, you may drag the file from the PGP Desktop window onto your own computer desktop or file management window.  Then you can open it with your native application, such as Excel, Word, or Adobe Reader