Welsh technology to revolutionise Australian healthcare

Technology developed by a team at Swansea University Medical School that enables the secure storage and sharing of large scale data for research is set to revolutionise healthcare in Australia.

The Helix platform, based at Monash University, will provide approved researchers with groundbreaking access to complex sets of healthcare data with the vision of improving the care provided by health practitioners to patients. Helix, which uses Swansea University’s Health Informatics Group’s secure data infrastructure, Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP), will utilise data from hundreds of clinical trials, medical and population health studies and patient registries to help better understand a host of disease burdens faced by Australia including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, heart disease and mental illness.

SeRP is a high powered, safe and secure e-research platform that allows data owners and researchers to store, access, share, link and analyse data at scale, in a fully governed highly secure environment, whilst maintaining full control of the data at all times.

Swansea University reports Professor David Ford, Head of the Health Informatics Group at its Medical School, said “Data is the foundation for almost all research. However, too often much of the energies of research teams are focused on the collection of data, rather than on its analysis and interpretation. Providing secure access to carefully curated data resources through infrastructure such as SeRP and Monash’s Helix platform, enables researchers to concentrate on analysing the rich and highly scaled data resources within the platform, providing research-based insights quicker, more efficiently and more safely than ever before. The privacy and security of patient data is our highest priority. SeRP has gained multiple external accreditations for both privacy protection and technology security, making it the best in class at a UK and international level.

“We are excited to share our technology and experience with Monash University so that they too will be able to demonstrate they take their responsibilities to patients whilst still delivering high-impact, highly-scaled research. Monash University is the perfect collaborator for us. As a large and highly respected university which is well known for having a powerful and internationally acclaimed research base, we are delighted to work with them to help them manage, use and share patient data to support to drive forward high quality research. Together, we will help deliver an infrastructure that will make a real difference.”

SeRP provides the mechanism to exchange data between healthcare organisations whilst providing a safe, secure and governed environment. SeRP ensures that any access to the data is fully controlled by the data owner, to ensure appropriate and agreed use. It includes built in best in class data linkage and de-identification, provided to the platform by Swansea University’s partners Curtin University.

Hospitals and healthcare systems routinely collect and hold large amounts of data on their patients within health care records systems. Using this data, and sharing it with others allow health systems improve the services provided to patients and accelerate the research process to deliver improvements in healthcare. Research using shared and linked data can also provide insight into areas that can be developed to provide more efficient services, offer improved treatments to patients, as well as enhancing the patient experience.

Professor Ian Smith, Vice-Provost (Research and Research Infrastructure) at Monash University, said “The Helix platform provides a tool that will allow the research community to take a huge step forward on the journey towards a healthier society. The Helix platform is world-leading and will pave the way towards enabling the earlier detection of some of the most crippling and chronic diseases facing Australians, and indeed the world. Fast-tracking research brings us closer to better understanding disease prevention and ultimately finding cures. We have partnered with Swansea University because their experience in health data security is the best in the world. Monash University is committed to guaranteeing data security.

“Monash University is taking a leading role by operating the ambitions of the Helix platform inside the world’s best practice framework, as seen at Swansea University. Bringing in other capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, while improving healthcare research, will build capacity and scale to the benefit of the human race. The scale of the Helix platform means researchers could eventually have access to new comprehensive health data from around the world. The insight this will offer to human health is profound. The data capacity of the Helix platform will contribute hugely to physicians’ dreams around delivering personalised medicine. Patients will benefit enormously if they can receive bespoke drug treatment regimens, tailored to their specific healthcare needs. The Helix platform supports ground-breaking research in disease prevention. Through analysing data from a variety of population groups, it will be possible to identify clinical markers that suggest the early indication of a disease. The better we can measure and detect these indicators early on, then the sooner we can clinically intervene before a disease reaches a stage where it becomes chronic or incurable. This will have huge implications on the healthier society agenda.”

Helix will support the medical community in better identifying the key markers and trends of human health and disease through bringing together historical and current studies together in one accessible platform. The platform hopes to shatter boundaries and help further understanding. The scientific research Helix will enable will ultimately offer long-term savings and benefits to state and national healthcare budgets, through offering patients targeted treatment with more speed and accuracy and reducing waste.

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