In March 2020 a loose collection of volunteers, enthusiasts and organisations started building a knowledge graph as a response to the pandemic by combining a number of public data sources including PubMed articles, patent data, clinical trials and biomedical concepts. The result of this collaboration was CovidGraph. Today, CovidGraph continues to gather momentum and we are in the process of founding HealthECCO as a formal non-profit organisation that can provide a sustainable future for the project. We have ambitions beyond CovidGraph, and HealthECCO will help realise the enormous potential of the people, the underlying technologies and conceptual approach that have already proved so successful. In doing so we hope to have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.
With the HealthECCO Knowledge Graph, we are creating a way to facilitate and significantly accelerate data use, data sharing, and data integration in health research, policy, and care.
For the most part, it is stored in multiple locations and is neither connected to other data sources nor searchable. By not having the information decision makers need, it inhibits the ability to respond to health crises at all - let alone quickly.
Data in the healthcare sector is complex, highly connected and locked, or hidden in data silos. While the data often exists in principle, in reality it is not actually available.
Data is neither findable nor accessible.
Reliance on old and inflexible technologies such as relational databases makes data processing inefficient and significantly hinders research progress. Data analysis is still often done by manual methods, for example the comparison of excel files.
Data is neither interoperable nor reusable.
We see three main groups of users for our solution: Policy makers, health workers and researchers, although there are clearly spillover benefits for other stakeholders like journalists or the interested public. While their daily problems are different, they all need access to similar data. Policy makers need contextualized knowledge to draft guidelines, health workers have to find the right piece of evidence for the specific patient, and researchers need to combine their speciality with the world’s knowledge to quickly respond to health emergencies.
For health workers, the key benefit is a much improved basis for decision making. With limited understanding of emerging diseases, health workers have to identify a guideline, study or case report that is applicable for the patient at hand. Access to established information sources in combination with case reports and grey literature delivers contextualized insights to improve treatment decisions.
For researchers, we provide a much faster way to access information outside of their speciality. For example, one of the first observations during the Corona crisis was that SARS-CoV-2 affects multiple organs. An understanding of this mechanism is only possible by looking at various physiological systems. Further understanding of disease mechanisms and proposals for new treatments also requires a broader understanding. Traditional scientific exchange of information via published reports and clinical trials is too slow to respond to health emergencies.
For policy makers, we help create and disseminate accurate health policies that are timely and appropriate for different geopolitical settings.
Our team started with a focus on researchers: We actively collaborate with academics at various universities and research networks. Through our research network and preliminary work we already established a community of health workers across Europe, South Africa and the US who define use cases and validate prototypes. The Trinity Challenge network will be pivotal in gaining access to policy makers. We are going to partner with the Clinton Health Access Initiative to further understand requirements of policy makers and deliver tailored solutions.
HealthECCO has encapsulated this in a comprehensive engagement strategy to engage with all our stakeholders including developers.