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Combining clinical routine and research data for better insights

17 partners from university hospitals, research and industry organisations launch medical informatics project

On 20 February 2018, the Smart Medical Information Technology for Healthcare (SMITH) consortium of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s (BMBF) Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) held a kick-off meeting to provide insights into its upcoming work. High-level representatives from SMITH’s seven participating university hospitals, its founding universities, and from its industry and research partners were all present.

The SMITH consortium unites expertise in medicine, informatics and epidemiology. Its universities work closely with partners to develop IT architecture for the interoperable and legally compliant use of data from healthcare and patient-oriented research – data shared across individual sites. On the basis of three use cases, SMITH aims to quickly achieve a tangible improvement in patient care and, in future, to make the results available to network partners via a special marketplace. 

SMITH will establish data integration centres (DICs) that coordinate and cooperate with each other at its university hospitals in Aachen, Bonn, Essen, Halle, Hamburg, Jena and Leipzig. The DICs will act as data brokers and trust centres to process and organise data, amongst other tasks. All seven DICs will be embedded in the university hospitals, and will implement interfaces to healthcare data in accordance with data protection requirements. As a result, data analyses can be based on real-world care data and, in turn, lead to an improvement in patient care. Professor Wolfgang Fleig, Medical Chair of Leipzig University Medical Center, explains: “In essence, SMITH is about seven university hospitals, their universities, and a range of industry and research partners joining forces in a consortium to standardise and improve the analysis of medical data. The goal is to acquire insights that enhance patient treatments.”

To harness and apply the project’s results, SMITH has developed a comprehensive roll-out plan. This will lead to marked improvements in patient care in areas covered by its use cases, both at participating university hospitals and at network partner organisations. Specifically, SMITH is developing a dedicated marketplace for the roll-out – in other words, a collection of IT tools for transferring project results to other hospitals, regional healthcare providers, and medical networks. Professor Markus Löffler of Leipzig University, Head of the SMITH consortium, states: “In four years, and working hand-in-hand with our industry partners, we aim to establish data integration centres with data trust centres and harmonised data exchange at all seven university hospital sites. With our clinical use cases, we want to provide evidence of the Medical Informatics Initiative’s benefits for patients – and therefore lay the foundations for continuing the initiative in the long term.”

The consortium will work on three use cases. In a methodological use case, phenotype pipeline (PheP), SMITH will develop a phenotyping platform for selected indications using data from electronic medical records. It will employ innovative data-analytics methods to make this data suitable for clinical research and improved patient care.

The clinical ASIC use case is aimed at the model-based algorithmic surveillance of critically ill patients in intensive care units (ICUs) – by means of continuous analyses from patient data management systems. This forms the basis for faster diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. As Professor Gernot Marx, who leads the ASIC use case at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen observes, “The ASIC use case already allows data digitally captured from ICUs to be used more efficiently – for better patient care in line with data protection requirements. This enables intensive care doctors to arrive at diagnoses sooner, tailor treatments faster, and provide more precise care to ICU patients.”

Through the HELP use case, SMITH supports antibiotic stewardship – i.e. appropriate use of antibiotics to combat bacterial infections at an early stage. Professor André Scherag, SMITH coordinator at University Hospital Jena, describes HELP’s goal, stating: “We want to simplify the tasks of infectious disease specialists in general wards and intensive care units, by working with them to develop IT systems to avoid the over- and underuse of antibiotics.”

The Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) also plans cross-consortia programmes for sharing results from use cases. Consequently, the initiative can be expected to have a broad impact going forward. In addition, SMITH is establishing a comprehensive programme aimed at transferring results to education and training. Medical informatics courses will be developed at participating universities, and new educational options for medical professionals created. These activities will be assisted by the establishment of new professorships at the universities of Leipzig, Jena and Aachen.


Source: UK Leipzig

Further information

  1. Website of the SMITH consortium

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