Better and more efficient treatment thanks to data

In a European first, Amsterdam UMC is sharing large amounts of data – a total of almost one billion data points – with doctors and scientists from around the world in the newly established AmsterdamUMCdb. The aim of the project is that the data will be utilised for developing AI algorithms that ensure intensive care patients can receive the right treatment faster – saving lives in the process. According to Amsterdam UMC, up to 30% of intensive care patients do not survive, making improving treatment in this department an urgent challenge.

How information is used for treating patients

Big data can offer some of the most effective ways of gaining new insights and improving care and treatments; as such, data science is being increasingly regarded as a paramount tool for medical science. “Sharing data to improve treatments is very important for future patients,” says project leader Dr Paul Elbers, intensivist at Amsterdam UMC, in a press release.

However, due to privacy concerns sharing data is not something that medical and academic organisations are undertaking lightly. The AmsterdamUMCdb project was initiated by the European Society for Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) and is supported by the Dutch Society for Intensive Care Medicine. Usage of the data is subject to strict regulations and conditions; it has been anonymised thoroughly (according to the parties, it is “not reasonably likely” that individual patients can be identified in the shared data); the project has been created in consultation with independent privacy experts and been subject to an ethics audit. In addition, patients at Amsterdam UMC retain the right to opt out of their data being used in the project.

Moving forward in improving healthcare

The initiative is widely supported by the medical community. Specialists from many Dutch hospitals have announced their support and their intention to follow Amsterdam UMC’s example of sharing patient data in a responsible way, signalling further promising developments for future efforts in utilising big data in healthcare.

The project is a significant step forward for Amsterdam’s growing life sciences and health sector. The city is home to the European Medicines Agency and over 300 life sciences companies. Additionally, more than 600 professionals in the local area specialise in data science. Amsterdam is developing into a world-leading medical data science hub, and the Amsterdam Economic Board has set itself an ambitious goal to extend the average lifespan of the citizens living in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area by two years. Big data and AI are set to play a key part in reaching that target.

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