Making health data more accessible and better used with a digitally integrated platform: the added value of the Datapoort

In this article, professor of health economics Raun van Ooijen and radiologist and professor of cardiothoracic imaging Rozemarijn Vliegenthart tell more about the added value and usefulness of a digitally integrated platform with health data.

Fortunately, the number of seriously ill corona patients in intensive care units is falling sharply, even now that society is opening up further. However, given a sharp increase in absenteeism due to illness, the concerns are not yet gone. Absenteeism remains high, especially in education and healthcare, due to the contagious nature of the omikron variant. Many educators and caregivers are ill for a long time due to persistent corona complaints or because they came under high pressure during the corona pandemic.

In order to map major health issues such as the effects and risk factors of this high and often long-term absenteeism, the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) has started setting up an integrated digital platform, or the Datapoort. The insights obtained from the Datapoort can contribute to the promotion of work resumption, so that the workload in healthcare and education can ultimately be alleviated. The Datapoort can also contribute to other major social issues in the field of health, care and prevention that are currently difficult to answer.

Northern Netherlands leader in health data

In order to be able to offer even better and affordable care in the region, to carry out innovative research and to collaborate more efficiently, the availability of good and up-to-date data is of great importance. The UMCG and regional partners are already at the forefront nationally when it comes to collecting unique data – such as within Lifelines and the Personal Health Environment. This data promotes innovative research and the development of new applications and practices in health care and prevention. Data is not always easily accessible, let alone directly usable. Moreover, the data from different sources are difficult to link together due to privacy and technical barriers. In order to make better use of the available data sources, to make them accessible and to link them together, an integrated digital platform will be created: the Datapoort.

Answering major issues with the Datapoort

In the Datapoort, different groups of users, from researchers to healthcare providers, patients, citizens, policy makers and healthcare administrators, can obtain a clear overview of available data sources and research data via one virtual portal. This concerns data in the broadest sense of the word, including data from biobanks, medical imaging, registrations of care domains, socio-demographic population data, environmental factors, etc. Users of the Datapoort can easily apply for access or submit a research report. or policy question, to use data from linked data sources within the digital platform. Depending on the purpose, different groups of users have access to information aggregated in a catalogue (citizens, policy makers and healthcare administrators) or the underlying individual data (researchers, healthcare providers and patients). The Datapoort thus contributes to complex social issues in the field of care and prevention that are currently difficult to answer.

An example: work loss in this time of COVID-19

The use of good and up-to-date data on loss of work and underlying causes is important to contribute to alleviating the enormous pressure that now rests on healthcare and education. The problem is that such data is often fragmented, not easily accessible, let alone directly usable for research. For example, absenteeism is registered by various service providers. Combining this data is a challenge due to privacy and technical barriers. In addition, there are detailed data on duration of absence and resumption of work, but information about health or reasons for absence is registered to a limited extent for privacy reasons. Moreover, the data does not provide insight into any psychological and physical health problems of people who have not (yet) reported sick.


Combining work loss data offers unique insights

Combining absenteeism registrations with the Lifelines Corona survey, for example, creates a more complete picture of how health complaints and absenteeism develop during the pandemic. In the Lifelines Corona study, the health of about 30,000 employees in the Northern Netherlands has been extensively monitored from the start of the pandemic. Participants fill in extensive questionnaires about both psychological and physical health problems, corona infections and having persistent complaints. In addition, the questionnaire contains extensive information about when people were vaccinated. The combination of the Lifelines Corona survey with absenteeism registrations makes it possible to predict how absenteeism and work pressure will develop over a longer period of time in different professions. And to identify which groups of employees are particularly affected and which measures help to support and improve productivity among these groups.

Datapoort connects unique initiatives in the Northern Netherlands

The Datapoort is a unique initiative that takes a major step towards a common goal of more healthy years in the Northern Netherlands. The Datapoort connects unique initiatives in the Northern Netherlands, such as the Personal Health Environment with Lifelines and other leading cohorts in the UMCG Cohort and Biobank Coordination Hub, regional care pathways of, for example, HartNet, but also the national health data ecosystem of Population Health Data NL, and high-quality expertise in the field of data science in healthcare from the Data Science Center in Health (DASH) of the UMCG. The Datapoort thus offers great opportunities for research institutions, the business community, governments and hospitals to solve complex social issues in the field of care and prevention, with the Northern Netherlands as the health data region of the Netherlands.

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