SPHN Semantic Web Framework for FAIR data

Building a framework for understanding health-related data across Switzerland.

Full information is available on the SPHN website and several of the services are available from the BioMedIT Portal

Health-related data, spanning from hospital routine data to biomedical research data are quite diverse and stored in different databases and formats, often coded in local standards. This fragmentation and diversity make it very time consuming to combine data from different sources in order to perform research on a particular topic. It is generally difficult to understand data and the intended meaning due to the lack of common standards, metadata, or a common data dictionary. Following the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) principles, the SPHN Data Coordination Center (DCC) is building an infrastructure to overcome these hurdles and enable collaborative research by making the meaning of health-related data understandable to humans and machines. This allows for an easy linkage of the data from different sources, simplifying the use and exploration of data across Switzerland.

The diverse needs and requirements of the different use cases make it impossible to agree on a single data model. Not only do the required data elements differ between projects, but also the level of granularity required for a single data point can vary significantly. Therefore, SPHN developed a framework based on a strong semantic layer of information (pillar 1), and graph technologies for the exchange layer which can be extended by the projects to fit their purposes (pillar 2). Thus, a universal exchange language for healthcare is established, using the "words" from various international standard vocabularies (such as SNOMED CT or LOINC), a simple "grammar" (subject-predicate-object; expressed in RDF), and additional SPHN guidelines and rules to establish good practices for FAIR data. 

SPHN and BioMedIT provide an ecosystem around Semantic Web Technologies to manage and link data in compliance with the FAIR criteria. The network offers: 

  • A framework and guidelines to semantically express data 
  • A core ontology for the most common clinical concepts 
  • A terminology service providing SPHN compatible, machine-readable versions of national (such as CHOP or ICD-10 GM) and international (such as SNOMED CT or LOINC) terminologies and classifications  
  • A quality control framework to improve data quality  
  • A tool stack to use Semantic Web Technology on BioMedIT 
  • Training and support for interested researchers

Find out more about the SPHN Semantic Interoperability Framework