The demand for faster, better patient outcomes intensified during the pandemic, accelerating the increase of collaboration across clinical and medical research to develop more effective drugs and treatments. Today, this trend continues to drive a sense of urgency to expand the secure exchange of healthcare data and store it in proximity to research workloads.
There are certain factors you must take into consideration when it comes to exchanging healthcare data. For instance, it’s common for patient data to be collected and stored in disparate records across multiple healthcare networks, which means there’s no single source of truth for a patient’s medical history. To build a complete record of a patient’s health history, data from the separate records must be aggregated into a longitudinal view of the patient’s health history and care.
These wider data sets and increased collaboration through healthcare data exchange are necessary to meet the end goal of improving patient outcomes in both clinical and research settings. Collaboration and data exchange occur through participation in digital ecosystems. According to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study published by Equinix, embracing the power of ecosystems is consistent with what digital leaders do–in this case, healthcare digital leaders.
The GXI report predicts that by 2026, 80% of G2000 companies will become digital leaders, interconnecting with 4+ hyperscale providers and 30+ SaaS/business partners, on average. These data points are consistent with healthcare digital leaders that grew from a single core deployment to multiple core and edge deployments over a four-year period. They also more than doubled their infrastructure and quadrupled their connectivity, along with a huge consumption of cloud services and networks.
In this article, we’ll look at how healthcare and adjacent digital ecosystems connect with a range of companies and research organizations to deliver better patient outcomes faster and use additional data sources to inform more precise healthcare research.
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Combining nonmedical data with healthcare data creates new insights
The field of population health focuses on the need for health transparency in underserved patient demographics. Industry experts share the opinion that only 10-25% of the patient data stored in electronic health records serves as a predictor of a patient’s health outcome. There are other indicators that determine whether someone gets regular and necessary health exams or is prone to be diagnosed with a certain condition, such as social determinants of health (SDOH) data. The World Health Organization defines SDOH as the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes, such as the conditions in which people are born, grow up, work, live and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.
When you incorporate SDOH data into the mix, you get a much wider view of the variables that influence health equity in positive and negative ways. Through collaboration, third-party providers are supplying the SDOH indicators needed to develop a broader understanding of nonmedical indicators in population health.
Regulations drive collaboration to share data, leading to better research
While healthcare interoperability has been a goal for many years, the challenge of coordinating data among payers, providers, pharmacies, labs and other key players still exists. Recently, regulations have emerged that will require healthcare providers to exchange electronic health information (EHI).
The Trusted Exchange Framework & Common Agreement (TEFCA) requires health information networks (HINs) in the U.S. to share EHI as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. Developing this Common Agreement is intended to enable the exchange of EHI between disparate HINs. By scaling the exchange of EHI nationwide, TEFCA will help ensure that HINs, healthcare providers, health plans, individuals and other stakeholders have secure access to EHI when and where it’s needed.
In 2024, TEFCA will launch Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) that function as healthcare data exchange on-ramps. Currently, seven entities have had their application accepted and are completing the rigorous onboarding and testing phases to qualify as QHINs.
It’s an exciting development for improving patient outcomes and advancing research. The immediate benefit will be realized by individuals who require treatment in a medical facility outside their EHI network. Let’s say a patient has a medical emergency while traveling out of state. Without access to the patient’s EHR data, the provider risks treating them without knowing important patient history, such as allergies to certain medications. In the future, providers will need the patient’s identification details; a request can be made to access records from multiple healthcare providers to create a comprehensive EHR of the patient. Researchers will use this same approach to ensure they are studying a complete profile of patient data when looking at the progression of an untreated rare disease, for example, compared to patients who are undergoing treatment in clinical trials.
Collaborative efforts in research provide tangible results
Let’s look at a couple examples of joint developments in ecosystem environments that have been transformative in the use of AI for drug discovery and application development.
Precision Robotics, a start-up from Imperial College in London, is developing recognition systems of the body through imagery to develop next-gen surgical robots. It has deployed an NVIDIA DGX™ A100 system in the Equinix IBX® data center in Hong Kong. The system is built for data analytics, scientific computing and AI development and reduces model training time by accelerating the machine learning development process. This deployment supports the company’s development of next-generation surgical robots used in precision surgery for personalized healthcare and improved quality of life.
Precision Robots plans to leverage the ecosystem on Platform Equinix® to lease time on its NVIDIA DGX A100 to other AI and R&D organizations. Doing so will promote the use of AI-backed applications and drive the expansion of AI development in Hong Kong. The potential exists for Precision Robotics to leverage Equinix Fabric®, our software-defined interconnection services, to create a more cost-effective and secure network for efficient collaboration with its global medical counterparts.
Genomics England is a technology company supporting some of the world’s most advanced and precision medicine. As the central genomic service for the U.K., the organization’s initial mission was to sequence 100,000 genomes of patients with rare diseases and cancers and compare the genetic information to the standard genome, enabling diagnosis and treatment not possible with traditional diagnostic techniques. Participant data was then anonymized so researchers worldwide can study results to advance the treatment of rare diseases and cancers.
The scale of data generation at Genomics England has increased from sequencing 100,000 genomes in the original project to 5 million genomes today. The organization needed up to 150 PB of performant storage to support all those genomes. It deployed specific digital infrastructure components on Platform Equinix to accelerate that expansion and make the data easily accessible to all the right companies across clinical and research. To ensure a robust disaster recovery system, they deployed a distributed storage system across three sites.
Putting the right digital infrastructure into place
One way you can expand the sources of relevant data for effective clinical and medical research is to participate in digital healthcare ecosystems and other related ecosystems. Collaboration and healthcare data exchange, along with access to robust ecosystems of clouds, networks and other business partners on Platform Equinix, equip organizations for developing innovative solutions that improve patient outcomes.
Setting up cloud-adjacent storage in Equinix IBX data centers puts your data in proximity to workloads running in the cloud without incurring fees related to data egress or API calls. Equinix Fabric virtual interconnection allows you to transport data securely and quickly instead of using the public internet.
To find out how Equinix helps healthcare digital leaders create the foundational infrastructure they need to improve patient outcomes, read our Fueling Innovation in Healthcare and Life Sciences solution brief.
To learn more about how digital infrastructure supports the development of precision medicine at Genomics England, read the Building Digital Advantage with Platform Equinix® E-book.
 Social determinants of health, World Health Organization website
 Trusted Exchange Framework & Common Agreement – TEFCA
 Qualified Health Information Networks – QHINs