10 Promoting the merging of health data in Switzerland

Linked health data provide an important basis for taking decisions on the continuing development of the Swiss health system. This project has developed proposals on how the existing data from the out- and in-patient setting, from research and the insurance sector can be merged.

  • ​Project description (completed research project)

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    Based on a literature analysis of Swiss and Danish projects, the factors that determine the success of data merging were identified, and the requirements that a harmonised database needs to fulfil were established. In addition, interviews were conducted with international experts to find out how other countries approach data harmonisation and the results were subjected to an ethico-legal analysis. A Delphi survey was also used to identify the factors that hinder or promote data harmonisation in Switzerland. The results were summarised and recommendations for Switzerland formulated.

  • Background

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    When medical services are used and invoiced, but also in research, the process generates data that are important for steering the health service. The value of these data, however, is limited: firstly, because there are major gaps in the data, especially regarding the outpatient setting; secondly because many data are held in isolation; and thirdly because many of the data are not available for research purposes. This means that there is insufficient data to provide a basis for decisions on developing the health system.

  • Aim

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    The aim of the study was to create the conditions for improving the data situation in the Swiss health service. Factors that hinder or promote data harmonisation were to be identified and policy makers should be made aware of the issue.

  • Results

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    The study led to the creation of an ethico-legal framework for the processing of health data. It also resulted in proposals for improving data protection regulations for biomedical research and public health. In addition, success factors and obstacles in the exchange of data and the linking of data sources in Switzerland and Denmark were elicited and recommendations for the development of an efficient data structure and management in Switzerland were drawn up. These include the creation of incentives for data sharing and of legal foundations for the ownership of health data, increased coordination between the various institutions, and proposals for the formulation of a Swiss health data strategy.

  • Relevance / Application

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    Significance of the results for research and practice

    The study results help to facilitate the shared use of linked health data in the future. They also support the debate about the protection and use of personal health data.

  • Original title

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    Advancing SMart solutions and eliminating barriers for the Acquisition, Analysis, and Sharing of Health data in Switzerland [SMAASH]