A methodology for a minimum data set for rare diseases to support national centers of excellence for healthcare and research

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015 Jan;22(1):76-85. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2014-002794. Epub 2014 Jul 18.


Background: Although rare disease patients make up approximately 6-8% of all patients in Europe, it is often difficult to find the necessary expertise for diagnosis and care and the patient numbers needed for rare disease research. The second French National Plan for Rare Diseases highlighted the necessity for better care coordination and epidemiology for rare diseases. A clinical data standard for normalization and exchange of rare disease patient data was proposed. The original methodology used to build the French national minimum data set (F-MDS-RD) common to the 131 expert rare disease centers is presented.

Methods: To encourage consensus at a national level for homogeneous data collection at the point of care for rare disease patients, we first identified four national expert groups. We reviewed the scientific literature for rare disease common data elements (CDEs) in order to build the first version of the F-MDS-RD. The French rare disease expert centers validated the data elements (DEs). The resulting F-MDS-RD was reviewed and approved by the National Plan Strategic Committee. It was then represented in an HL7 electronic format to maximize interoperability with electronic health records.

Results: The F-MDS-RD is composed of 58 DEs in six categories: patient, family history, encounter, condition, medication, and questionnaire. It is HL7 compatible and can use various ontologies for diagnosis or sign encoding. The F-MDS-RD was aligned with other CDE initiatives for rare diseases, thus facilitating potential interconnections between rare disease registries.

Conclusions: The French F-MDS-RD was defined through national consensus. It can foster better care coordination and facilitate determining rare disease patients' eligibility for research studies, trials, or cohorts. Since other countries will need to develop their own standards for rare disease data collection, they might benefit from the methods presented here.

Keywords: common data elements; interoperability; metadata; minimum data set; national health program; rare diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research*
  • Common Data Elements
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Datasets as Topic / standards*
  • France
  • Humans
  • Rare Diseases*
  • Systems Integration