The HiGHmed consortium unites three leading international medical faculties and university hospitals with complementary skills: Heidelberg, Göttingen and Hanover. They are joined by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), based in Heidelberg. HiGHmed aims to enhance the efficiency of clinical research and improve patient care through novel medical informatics solutions and cross-institutional data exchange. To this end, the partners leverage their extensive experience in medical IT development, application and training. In addition to its core partners, HiGHmed has the support of members of higher education and the private sector.
HiGHmed is funded by BMBF during the development and networking phase since January 2018.
Data integration centres
Data integration centres (DICs) will be established at each participating university hospital to enable cross-institutional data sharing and integration. These centres will work closely with a further DIC, dedicated to genomics and radiomics data, at DKFZ. The DICs will leverage a flexible, generic reference architecture based on open-source standards to allow its use by other sites, including the incorporation of new sources of data. Three medical use cases, on oncology, cardiology and infection control, form the basis for planning for the HiGHmed DICs and integration platform.
The oncology use case will address the challenges of incorporating huge data volumes (omics data) from genome sequencing and radiology into clinical practice. A virtual oncology centre will visualise the course of cancer treatment, and serve as a platform for sharing information between hospitals, research institutes, doctors and patients. The virtual centre will play a significant role in identifying similar cancer cases, and enabling tailored, patient-centred care – as demonstrated by examples involving tumours of the pancreas, liver and bile ducts.
In the cardiology use case, data from wearable, implanted and connected medical devices will be transferred to the data centres. New, mobile diagnostic devices will have a major impact on medical practice and research. They capture data from long-term monitoring and measurements, generating highly specific and comprehensive data sets. As a result, high-risk patients could be identified early, hospital stays reduced, and mortality rates lowered.
The infection control use case will develop an automated early-warning and cluster-analysis system to support the algorithmic detection of pathogen clusters in hospitals. This includes the identification of multidrug-resistant organism clusters, and their transmission routes within and between hospitals. It will also help determine whether clusters represent genuine outbreaks, and identify potential causes.
Data use and access concept
HiGHmed is developing a comprehensive data protection concept. This takes into account the location-specific principles and policies of the data integration centres, plus the requirements of its three use cases. The consortium has also drawn on the generic data protection concepts published by TMF as part of its book series in 2014. HiGHmed partners collaborated during the conceptual phase of the Medical Informatics Initiative to determine details of its data protection concept – for example, on data flow, identifying applicable legislation, origin and determination of data, and on applying technical and organisational solutions. HiGHmed continues to evolve and adapt its data protection concept, taking into account German legislation that has yet to be amended in line with the EU General Data Protection Regulation. Presentation and discussion will be via TMF’s data protection working group.
Measures to strengthen medical informatics in Germany
- Establishment of a teaching and training programme
- Establishment of a training-on-the-job programme
- Development of concepts for graduate and post-graduate education
- Qualifications for employees in the field of medical informatics
- Training for medical healthcare professionals on using new technologies
- HiGHmed certificate in medical informatics
- Raising the proportion of women in medical informatics
- Providing online information modules for patients, study participants, and citizens
The goal of the HiGHmed (Heidelberg - Göttingen - Hanover Medical Informatics) consortium is to develop and apply innovative information infrastructures – to enhance the efficiency of clinical research, and to accelerate the translation of these results into verifiable improvements in patient care.
During the conceptual phase of the initiative, HiGHmed developed concepts to establish four coordinated data integration centres (DICs) at the consortium’s locations. These would be compatible across organisations and institutions, and suitable for international cooperation. Moreover, the DICs are to be expanded both qualitatively and quantitatively in the following years.
This work is aligned with HiGHmed’s goal of developing innovative, internationally interoperable data integration solutions and methods, and proving their added value for research and patient care. In addition, the consortium intends to establish a programme to strengthen education and promote young medical informatics professionals – with a focus on new learning methods that incorporate digital media.
Concepts ready for implementation were developed in five work packages (WPs):
- WP1 defined how data integration centres would be implemented and interconnected in greater detail.
- WP2 formulated research strategies on the basis of three medical use cases. These were developed in detail with corresponding experts from the consortium’s three sites to improve the chances of future validation of the data integration centres. The oncology use case focuses on the incorporation of omics data into clinical practice. The cardiology use case is based on data from wearable or implantable sensors, and the infectiology use case on data from healthcare.
- WP3 described the education/support programme for young professionals in medical informatics.
- WP4 focused on data protection, ethics and legal issues.
- In addition to coordinating HiGHmed, WP5 developed concepts for external communications and roll-out.