Modern IT solutions and the digital networking of devices and work processes permeate many areas of life, and this does not stop at hospital gates. A cooperative project, InnOPlan, coordinated by KARL STORZ GmbH & Co. KG in Tuttlingen, is studying data-driven optimisation of processes in operating theatres.
Modern medical devices have to fulfil many functions. Particularly those that are used in operating theatres: in addition to having maximum functionality and optimal ergonomics, they also need to be fit for digital networking. This is the only way they can be used as providers of smart data, from which informative value can be deduced. The project InnOPlan, funded under the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy's "Smart Data - Innovations from Data" programme, was set up to address this issue.
The project was launched in 2015 based on work done by the Department of Business Informatics II at the University of Hohenheim which has long been committed to working on processes and process optimisation in clinical settings. The idea was developed with a company called KARL STORZ, and also involves partners from the field of data processing, namely SMARTIT® GbR and HB Technologies AG, as well as the Universities of Leipzig and Heidelberg. KARL STORZ, a manufacturer of endoscopes, devices and tools for use in minimally invasive surgery, is coordinating the project. "We have been offering solutions for optimising operating theatre processes since the late 1990s. This is why the InnOPlan project is particularly interesting for us. We can bring our long-standing experience to the project and at the same time benefit from the know-how of our project partners," explains Dr. Norbert Hansen of KARL STORZ GmbH & Co. KG and coordinator of the joint project.
In contrast to their predecessors, new digitally networked medical devices have the potential to improve the workflow in operating theatres if the effective networking of the devices is assured by standardised communication protocols. "A highly specialised consortium involving cooperation between universities and companies from the fields of IT and medical technology was established to deal with the question as to how processes in and associated with operating theatres can be optimised through intelligent data processing," says Dr. Hansen.
As part of the project, the experts are developing methods to structure and analyse acquired data. Amongst other things, they are developing a smart data platform that will use and optimise existing networking concepts to acquire data from medical devices and IT systems. These data are relatively heterogeneous, unstructured and usually dependent on the particular devices or systems used.
As part of the project, the data will, therefore, be pre-processed and stored in a uniform schema so that approaches from the fields of data mining and data processing can be used for the analyses. As far as the collection and processing of sensitive personal data is concerned, the biggest challenge is to find ways to back them up and, if necessary, also encrypt them to protect them from unauthorised access. "Data protection requires specific attention, especially in the healthcare sector where health and medical data are collected. However, the legal situation as far as general data protection regulation has not yet been sufficiently clarified," says Dr. Hansen. The InnOPlan consortium has therefore decided only to pursue approaches in which no personal data are required.
Medical devices are designed to meet a variety of tasks, have different fields of application and are also able to collect data. They are used, for example, for mutual device control and documentation of security and surgery-related data. In addition, data collected can be used for service purposes and process control. "This last point is the main focus of our project because InnOPlan is primarily aimed at optimising work processes in operating theatres and hospital operating wings," says Dr. Hansen. The initial focus will be on operating theatres and wings where visceral surgery is performed. In the long term, the consortium will also come up with solutions for other clinical areas, so that all disciplines will benefit from the project.
InnOPlan will run for another two years. During this time, the project partners will work on finding ways to link data with clinical processes inside and outside operating theatres in order to support and optimise clinical and logistic workflows, surgery planning and the availability of devices. "The project will show how future medical devices need to be designed in order to provide smart data. We will design methods and tools that will help us to turn as yet unavailable data into useful information," says the InnOPlan coordinator.