The Swiss Personalized Health Network (SPHN) is a national initiative designed to promote the development of personalized medicine and personalized health in Switzerland. SPHN will lay the foundations that are needed to facilitate research projects in this area such as a system for a nationwide exchange of health-related data.
For efficient collaborations and data sharing across Swiss hospitals and research institutions, having common standards (for data generation, annotation, quality indicators, semantics, and exchange formats) is crucial. These standards for molecular and clinical have not yet been established, and our aim at the Data Coordination Centre is to acheve nationwide interoperability in order to advance personalized health research.
Research in personalized health and precision medicine holds a strong promise to promote health and well-being, to prevent, diagnose and treat unfavourable health conditions more precisely, thus reducing the risk of developing such conditions and permitting more effective treatments of disease states with fewer adverse effects.
However, healthcare information in Switzerland is currently fragmented, making it difficult to use this data efficiently for research purposes. The challenges, to name a few, include different procedures of data collection, semantic differences in data annotation, domain-specific and incompatible data management systems. Since 2017, the Data Coordination Centre has been dedicated to addressing these challenges.
SPHN aims to develop a dynamic network of distributed interoperable and sharable resources, such as data, platforms, workflows, and competences, while the DCC will coordinate these activities in order to achieve nationwide interoperability.
The DCC is operated by the SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. SIB is also developing a project called BioMedIT, designed to establish a coordinated nationwide network of secure IT infrastructure across Swiss universities to enable researchers to efficiently work with confidential data (Regional Data Nodes). This research infrastructure project forms an essential part of SIB’s contribution to the SPHN initiative. It provides expertise, software workflows, as well as high-performance storage and computing resources for analysis and interpretation of large volumes of personal health-related data within the SPHN, including laboratory, imaging, clinical records, omics data and other.
The network of interoperable nodes will be progressively extended as needs arise, for example, when additional data nodes bring in new types of information, or when new specialized computational services are introduced.