Teaming up for better health

December 05, 2023

Patient data is hugely sensitive and needs protection. It’s a tricky topic, because everyone is ultimately doing their best to handle patient data responsibly. We really need a framework agreement so that we don’t have to renegotiate the terms of cooperation for each and every project. My colleagues in the US and Asia can carry out huge research studies into artificial intelligence, databases and personalised medicine. Those kinds of data-rich studies are impossible here, unfortunately, yet they are exactly what we need to translate basic research into better patient care.

Where does the most energy get wasted?
Kubik:
Most of the hurdles that hinder collaboration with basic research can be found on the hospital side. For example, we have much stricter privacy policies in the healthcare arena. Patient data is hugely sensitive and needs protection.
Wolfrum: We urgently need a solution that will enable a more progressive approach in this area. Obviously, I’m not talking about weakening data protection standards. But we do need to create clear guidelines and a uniform, standardised approach. Over-regulation can stifle innovation.
Jänicke: A good example of this is how each canton has its own data protection regulations, so the rules on what’s allowed differ from one canton to the next. It’s a tricky topic, because everyone is ultimately doing their best to handle patient data responsibly. But, above and beyond this, it really isn’t an efficient way to go about it.
Kubik: I’ve also noticed this uncertainty creeping into collaborative projects. We really need a framework agreement so that we don’t have to renegotiate the terms of cooperation for each and every project. It’s time to remove some of the administrative hurdles so that we can focus more of our attention on research and innovation. I would even go so far as to say that being in Switzerland puts us at a disadvantage here. My colleagues in the US and Asia can carry out huge research studies into artificial intelligence, databases and personalised medicine. Those kinds of data-rich studies are impossible here, unfortunately, yet they are exactly what we need to translate basic research into better patient care.
Wolfrum: That’s an important point. North America and Asia really are a long way ahead of Switzerland when it comes to large, data-intensive medical studies. There’s no doubt that the nationwide initiative Swiss Personalized Health Network has recently made enormous strides in strengthening data-based medical research and improving data sharing between universities and hospitals, but we still have a long way to go.
Jänicke: And it’s not just about removing obstacles. I think we also need to focus on incentivising innovation. So many of our colleagues working at the interface between lab and clinic are intrinsically motivated to come up with beneficial new developments for patients and for society. But we need to be ready to bear the costs of the innovations they produce. It can take years to negotiate a remuneration model for a new method! We should be taking a bolder approach.
Kubik: The healthcare system is not designed to reward innovation. That’s definitely a problem.

The source of this news is from ETH Zurich

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