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Why a Clinical Data Federation is the Next Phase of Clinical Research

February 13, 2023

Innovative clinical research requires large volumes of real-world patient data, yet most of today’s hospital data is siloed and inaccessible. There are tons of valuable data that are closed off due to patient privacy and security concerns that could fuel ground-breaking research if hospitals could safely share it. Implementing a clinical data federation — where disparate data sources are able to function as one — is the key to unlocking this patient data for clinical research.

Clinical data federations might not sound realistic for the healthcare industry, but many hospitals are already using this approach to share their data with clinical researchers securely. In fact, data federations, and in turn federated analytics, is the first realistic way to overcome the challenges of clinical data sharing.

In this blog, we’ll discuss how clinical data federation works and its benefits for researchers, healthcare providers, and patients. We’ll also cover the challenges with implementing clinical data federation and how Array Insights can help.

How a Clinical Data Federation Works

Clinical data federation involves integrating multiple data sources from hospitals and other data providers into a common format accessible from a centralized location. This approach differs from data aggregation because it doesn’t require any data movement at all. Instead, clinical data is analyzed locally across multiple sources simultaneously.

Data governance is a crucial aspect of clinical data federation because there are strict privacy laws in the healthcare industry. Many hospitals are reluctant to share data due to privacy risks. A clinical data federation (along with federated learning and analytics) that uses proper governance can enable researchers to generate insights from secure data sources without viewing the data itself.

Once a clinical data federation is implemented, research teams can use federated analytics and learning to leverage patient data from multiple hospitals while preserving patient privacy and security. This paves the way for collaboration between research groups and hospitals to further clinical research and improve patient outcomes.

The Benefits of a Clinical Data Federation

There are a number of benefits to implementing clinical data federation on a larger scale. For one, clinical researchers will have access to current and diverse data sets that fuel groundbreaking research. This can help overcome the data bias that might be reflected in limited sample sizes or underrepresented populations because the data sets available would be quantitatively and qualitatively better.

In addition, there’s a reduced administrative burden for healthcare providers that choose to share their data. It’s a relatively easy task for IT teams to federate data that’s already consumable locally by enabling secure access without any actual data exchange. This limits the privacy risks associated with clinical data sharing, and in turn, the bureaucracy involved.

Finally, increased clinical data sharing can dramatically improve patient outcomes. Researchers will have access to more comprehensive data to fuel their research and make breakthrough medical discoveries for the future. Meanwhile, healthcare providers can leverage this data for enhanced data analysis and decision-making capability to improve patient care today.

Challenges in Implementing a Clinical Data Federation

Although there are many benefits to clinical data federations, there are challenges to implementing them at scale.

Cost is often a barrier. It’s expensive to develop a data model, extract that data and transform it into its final form. This process requires rigid quality control and constant attention from already-buys administrators.

Additionally, collaboration doesn’t always come naturally. A data federation, by definition, involves multiple parties — all with different priorities. Getting everyone to agree on a workflow, data format, deadline, etc, isn’t easy.

Clinical Data Federation with SAIL

Array Insights is a next-generation clinical data registry that connects hospitals, patient advocacy groups, and clinical researchers to advance medical collaboration. This platform ensures patient data privacy with a secure trusted execution environment, access controls, encryption, and other privacy-enforcing technologies.

Array Insights Data Federation Platform utilizes a proprietary federated data approach that enables federated learning and analytics across data sets from numerous hospitals and other data providers. The Array Insights platform can run machine learning algorithms against patient data stored in secure enclaves at different hospitals and return the results without researchers ever accessing the data itself. This helps researchers overcome the limitations of siloed clinical data.

Since the data never leaves the data provider’s control, they’re able to verify the implementation of proper governance standards throughout the entire research process. This privacy-first data-sharing framework has helped us continue to build trusted partnerships with new data partners who contribute current and diverse patient data.

In short, clinical data federation with Array Insights is a highly secure approach to data sharing that ensures patient privacy while scaling innovation in medical research. As more and more research and hospitals get involved, the resulting global network will bring true innovation to all aspects of healthcare.

Schedule a call to see how Array Insights is bringing patient-focused organizations and researchers together to find disease-ending insights.