Revolutionizing Health Data With Arkhn
A discussion of what the team at Arkhn is doing with health data and the impact they hope it will have.
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If you’re like me and you haven’t spent much time in hospitals over the years, you’re not only lucky, but you’re also probably unfamiliar with the software systems they utilize. If you’re unfamiliar with the software systems used in hospitals, I’m going to assume you’re also unaware that said systems are extremely disjointed and do not allow for any meaningful data analysis.
It’s a reality that I discovered during a recent interview with Alexis Thual of Arkhn, a non-profit organization that is looking to standardize healthcare data and build open source data integration systems so that hospitals can take advantage of the data they hold and (hopefully) deliver better healthcare outcomes for patients.
As I found out from my chat with Alexis, hospitals — especially in France, where the Arkhn team is based — have a different piece of software for virtually every service they provide. For example, even a small French hospital could be running more than 100 systems, each with its own database and language.
Furthermore, the likelihood that any of these systems talk and share information is slim to none. That’s exactly what the team at Arkhn is trying to change.
I first encountered the Arkhn team at a La French Tech pitch event in Berlin, where they were the stand out pitch, as they were presenting a meaningful and useful idea. The team are mostly students working on the project in their spare time.
Arkhn uses the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) exchange standard to share healthcare data. FHIR is a draft standard describing data formats and elements (or “resources”) and an API for exchanging electronic health records. The Health Level Seven International (HL7) healthcare standards organization created the standard. It uses a modern web-based suite of API technology, including an HTTP-based RESTful protocol, HTML, and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for user interface integration, a choice of JSON, XML or RDF for data representation, and Atom for results.
It works by knowing how to ask a question and what answer to expect. So, for example, it’s a given that a patient has a surname and maybe a couple of first names, so systems can be programmed to expect just that as the standard syntax.
Right now, no software vendors that produce systems for the healthcare market use FHIR, and that is something the Arkhn team wants to change.
Also, by standardizing healthcare data, Arkhn hopes that hospitals will be able to perform more complex data analysis and make more informed decisions/predictions as a result.
While the Arkhn team’s focus is currently on French hospitals, they say the problem doesn’t just affect France. That’s why they’d like to see their solution rolled out internationally.
The team plans to offer the software for free, and finance themselves through grants and helping the hospitals install and set it up efficiently.
It’s an exciting project built mostly in Python and TypeScript, and one that you can get involved with yourself by visiting their GitHub repositories.
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