Zurich - Zurich is gaining a central biomedical informatics platform that revolutionizes data exhange between hospitals in Zurich with artificial intelligence. The city’s two universities and four hospitals will be linked to the central data management for the Zurich research center by 2025.

New biomedical informatics platform to revolutionize healthcare in Zurich
Researchers at the Institute of Quantitative Biomedicine are using novel methods to monitor the effectiveness of cancer therapies. Image: University of Zurich / Frank Brüderli

The LOOP Zurich research center, a joint initiative by the University of Zurich (UZH), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), and the four university hospitals in Zurich, plans to build a biomedical informatics platform (BMIP) by 2025. The LOOP has received the mandate to build the platform from University Medicine Zurich (UMZH). The funds required for this are being provided by the Zurich cantonal government. According to a press release from the UZH, the central solution will be significantly cheaper than modern infrastructures for each individual hospital.

Currently, each hospital uses its own IT system, in which huge amounts of patient information are stored. This information is not compatible with other systems, so it cannot be transferred between hospitals. This means it is unavailable for inter-hospital research projects. Additionally, the individual clinics do not have the infrastructure to deal with large quantities of data at the moment. 

Efficient and simple data exchange is an important basis for the long-term development of Zurich as a hub for medical research and healthcare.
Michael Krauthammer - Co-project manager of the BMIP

The new central biomedical informatics platform will do more than simply provide a means to store and share data between hospitals, by aiming to unlock this data treasure chest: Analyzing vast amounts of data, more and more often using artificial intelligence, can reveal patterns of how diseases develop and which treatments are most effective. UMZH Director Beatrice Beck Schimmer explains: “Large amounts of data are a cornerstone of precision medicine.”

Michael Krauthammer, medical informatics specialist at UZH and co-project manager of the BMIP, states that efficient and simple data exchange is “an important basis for the long-term development of Zurich as a hub for medical research and healthcare.” Existing biobanks with valuable patient data, including tissue samples, will also be integrated. In turn, data and algorithms developed on the platform can be exported back to hospitals. Applied to daily hospital work, the algorithms could be used to quickly identify when a patient’s health takes a turn for the worse so that healthcare professionals can react accordingly. It will also be possible to apply the algorithms developed as part of the platform directly in the machines and devices in the ICU for example.

The flagship project is expected to contribute to the establishment of interdisciplinary research between engineering, medicine, and information technology. Beck adds: “Our IT platform could even make Zurich Switzerland’s gold standard when it comes to data-centric research.” mm

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