About the Medical Informatics Initiative

The Medical Informatics Initiative

Strengthening Medical Research to Improve Patient Care

The SMITH Consortium is one of four consortia of the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII). The goal of the Medical Informatics Initiative is to strengthen the link between medical research and healthcare. To this end, all university hospitals in Germany are working together with research institutions, companies, health insurance funds, and patient representatives on a nationwide research data infrastructure. In the Data Integration Centers established for this purpose, data from routine care is harmonized and made available to research in order to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic options in the future.

The Medical Informatics Initiative: Facts and Figures

Since 2016, the MII has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in several project phases. In the current consolidation and extension phase from 2023 to 2026, the BMBF is providing the MII with around 200 million euros.

More than 30 Data Integration Centers in four consortia are networking and standardizing care data from (university) clinics for medical research and patient care. In the current funding phase, the MII will be expanded to include additional hospitals and research institutions.

Six Digital Hubs are transferring the pioneering work of the Medical Informatics Initiative to regional health care.

21 junior research groups strengthen medical informatics research as substructures of professorships.

A common core dataset based on international IT and terminology standards enables data exchange across sites.

Better research through cross-site exchange of routine medical data

The four MII consortia, DIFUTURE, HiGHmed, MIRACUM and SMITH, each comprising some of the partner sites, are pursuing a common goal under the umbrella of the Medical Informatics Initiative: to develop strategies to make data from patient care more usable for research. To this end, central technological interfaces, so-called Data Integration Centers, have been established at the university medical sites. The Data Integration Centers provide the framework for secure and data-protection compliant access to high-quality data from routine care. The prerequisite for all work is always the informed consent of the patients, who make an important contribution to the improvement of medical care by providing their data. A common core data set defines the form and type of the data sets available in the centers as basis for the data exchange. In clinical and methodological use cases, the functionality of the Data Integration Centers is being tested and optimized. At the same time, specific working groups are developing overarching strategies on topics such as data sharing, interoperability, broad consent, and communication to ensure consistent standards across the consortia.

Phased approach to nationwide clinical research data infrastructure

The data exchange infrastructure of the Medical Informatics Initiative will be developed in three phases between 2016 and 2026. In a nine-month concept phase from 2016 to 2017, seven consortia of university hospitals and partner institutions developed initial concepts for data use and planned data exchange. This included concrete application scenarios and technical strategies for establishing the Data Integration Centers. In the subsequent development and networking phase from 2018 to 2022, four of the consortia were finally funded. The DIFUTURE, HiGHmed, MIRACUM and SMITH consortia had the opportunity to implement the developed concepts. All of Germany’s university hospitals and other partners from research and healthcare have joined forces in the consortia to create the organizational and technical prerequisites for the anonymized collection of patient data and the exchange of data across sites. During this time, more than 30 (university) hospitals have established Data Integration Centers. In addition, junior research groups and professorships have been founded to promote young scientists in the field of medical informatics. With the German Portal for Medical Research Data (FDPG), a platform has been created in the development and networking phase that allows researchers to request and apply for data and biospecimens for medical research projects in a decentralized manner.

Cross-site collaboration for uniform national standards

In the current consolidation and extension phase from 2023 to 2026, the focus is on integrating further partners and initiatives such as the Network of University Medicine (NUM), the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) and the German Working Group of Medical Ethics Committees (AKEK). The existing data infrastructures and IT solutions will be extended to other university hospitals as well as regional providers and research institutions. The “Digital Hubs: Advances in Research and Health Care”, which have been funded by the BMBF since 2021, are leading the way. These pilot projects are developing concepts for the cross-site exchange of medical research data outside of university medicine. The DISTANCE project is a hub dedicated to improving intensive care aftercare. The SMITH Consortium office provides administrative support to the Digital Hub DISTANCE. As the MII structures are extended to different areas of the healthcare system, an increasing number of patients are addressed, which is why the current funding phase also focuses more on interaction with patients.

The work in the Medical Informatics Initiative is coordinated by a National Steering Committee (NSC). The TMF – Technology and Methods Platform for Networked Medical Research is responsible for the coordination and cooperation of the consortia.

Digital Hubs transfer MII infrastructure to regional health care systems

From 2021 to 2025, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is providing around 50 million euros for six “Digital Hubs: Advances in Research and Health Care”. The task of the Digital Hubs is to incorporate the pioneering work of the Medical Informatics Initiative (MII) on the digitalization of medicine from university hospitals to all areas of the healthcare system. The starting point of a hub is the Data Integration Center of a university hospital. These centers have been established as IT infrastructures at almost all German university hospitals as part of the Medical Informatics Initiative. A Data Integration Center networks with regional partners, including hospitals, physician practices, rehabilitation and nursing facilities, and emergency services. Research institutions and health insurance companies are also partners of the Hubs.