Fraunhofer FOKUS paves the way to improvements in medical care

Ensuring fast, secure transmission of patient data between medical institutions

Published on 06-Aug-2013

"Since problems are detected quickly, IT vendors can resolve defects in their systems earlier, avoid the unnecessary costs associated with extra development and testing cycles, and improve data quality management." - Andreas Hoffmann, Acting Head of the Modelling and Testing Competence Center, Fraunhofer Institut

Customer:
Fraunhofer Institut

Industry:
Healthcare

Deployment country:
Germany

Solution:
Big Data, Enabling Business Flexibility, Information Governance, Information Management Foundation

Overview

Fraunhofer FOKUS (Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems) is a German research institute with 540 employees and an annual operating budget of around 35 million euros. The institute conducts research into how communication networks can improve quality of life. It also develops solutions for new communication systems, specialising in multi-domain networks and interoperable, user-centric solutions.

Business need:
To care for patients effectively, doctors need fast access to medical records. Fraunhofer FOKUS wanted to find a way to transfer patients’ files easily and securely between systems at different hospitals.

Solution:
The institute developed a system based on IBM® InfoSphere® Master Data Management to test the compatibility of healthcare IT systems and their compliance with industry standards.

Benefits:
Fraunhofer FOKUS can now provide IT vendors with the information they need to create reliable healthcare systems capable of supporting safe medical care.

Case Study

To read a German version of this case study, click here.

Fraunhofer FOKUS (Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems) is a German research institute with 540 employees and an annual operating budget of around 35 million euros. The institute conducts research into how communication networks can improve quality of life. It also develops solutions for new communication systems, specialising in multi-domain networks and interoperable, user-centric solutions.

The work of institutes such as Fraunhofer FOKUS is becoming increasingly important in the healthcare sector, as electronic data communication now plays a key role in supporting patient care.

Andreas Hoffmann, Acting Head of the Modelling and Testing Competence Center at Fraunhofer Institut explains, “Patients often need to receive treatment at more than one hospital, perhaps because they have moved house, or they need to see a specialist, or they are admitted for emergency care. To ensure continuity and consistency of treatment, their medical records must be transmitted quickly and securely between the different hospitals.”

Improving patient care with electronic medical records
In the past, patient records were stored as paper files, which had to be sent between medical institutions by postal mail. Healthcare providers are now adopting electronic medical records, which will increase security by minimizing the risk of physical records being lost en route between hospitals. Electronic records also boost efficiency and improve patient care by reducing the time spent locating, reviewing and updating paper files, which enables medical professionals to spend more time actually treating patients.

The benefits of electronic medical records can only be fully exploited if patient records can be quickly and securely transferred between healthcare IT systems at different hospitals. However, there are many competing healthcare solutions on the market and problems can arise when patient data needs to be transferred between hospitals that are using incompatible systems.

Andreas Hoffmann says, “The issue of interoperability is often overlooked, but it can compromise the provision of safe medical treatment. For example, if a patient’s records indicate that they are allergic to a specific type of medication, this information needs to be made available to any doctor prescribing medicine for that patient. Moreover, the data must be transmitted quickly because the patient might require emergency treatment.”

To ensure fast delivery of appropriate medical care, the Fraunhofer Institute FOKUS eHealth Interoperability Lab provides testing services for IT vendors in the healthcare sector to ensure that their systems meet industry standards and are compatible with other solutions on the market. To provide these testing services, Fraunhofer FOKUS needed a solution that could detect problems in the transmission of data between different healthcare systems.

Researchers at the institute’s eHealth Interoperability Lab developed a testing solution using IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management software to test communication between disparate healthcare systems. Fraunhofer FOKUS selected IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management software because it offers outstanding compatability and flexibility, high-speed data transfer and advanced data management functionality.

Data is sent from the test system to IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management in the form of Health Level 7 (HL7) messages. HL7 provides a global standard for the transfer of electronic data between healthcare systems. Each HL7 message records a particular event, such as a new patient admission. Testers at the Fraunhofer FOKUS institute check the data received by the IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management software using a test system developed to meet the TTCN-3 standards for testing.

Adhering to industry standards
The IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management solution helps Fraunhofer FOKUS test whether various vendors’ healthcare IT systems meet HL7 messaging standards. The insights provided by the institute’s testing services enable IT vendors to adapt their healthcare systems to fit industry standards. By ensuring compliance with these standards, IT vendors can provide reliable electronic healthcare systems that are capable of supporting safe medical care and secure data transmission.

Andreas Hoffmann says, “We are considering extending our testing solution to support other industry standards. This would help us ensure that other types of data such as medical images can also be securely transferred between healthcare IT systems from competing vendors.”

Solving interoperability problems earlier
Using its testing solution, Fraunhofer FOKUS can determine whether the messages received by IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management match the expected results. This enables the institute to detect interoperability problems much more quickly than traditional manual testing methods.

Andreas Hoffmann concludes, “Since problems are detected quickly, IT vendors can resolve defects in their systems earlier, avoid the unnecessary costs associated with extra development and testing cycles, and improve data quality management.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
InfoSphere Master Data Management

Legal Information

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