How to Make Outpatient Healthcare Data in Germany Available for Research in the Dynamic Course of Digital Transformation

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2023 Sep 12:307:12-21. doi: 10.3233/SHTI230688.


Introduction: There is increasing interest on re-use of outpatient healthcare data for research, as most medical diagnosis and treatment is provided in the ambulatory sector. One of the early projects to bring primary data from German ambulatory care into clinical research technically, organizationally and in compliance with legal demands has been the RADAR project, that is based on a broad consent and has used the then available practice information system's interfaces to extract and transfer data to a research repository. In course of the digital transformation of the German healthcare system, former standards are abandoned and new interoperability standards, interfaces and regulations on secondary use of patient data are defined, however with slow adoption by Health-IT systems. Therefore, it is of importance for all initiatives that aim at using ambulatory healthcare data for research, how to access this data in an efficient and effective way.

Methods: Currently defined healthcare standards are compared regarding coverage of data relevant for research as defined by the RADAR project. We compare four architectural options to access ambulatory health data through different components of healthcare and health research data infrastructures along the technical, organizational and regulatory conditions, the timetable of dissemination and the researcher's perspective.

Results: A high-level comparison showed a high degree of semantic overlap in the information models used. Electronic patient records and practice information systems are alternative data sources for ambulatory health data - but differ strongly in data richness and accessibility.

Conclusion: Considering the compared dimensions of architectural routes to access health data for secondary research use we conclude that data extraction from practice information systems is currently the most promising way due to data availability on a mid-term perspective. Integration of routine data into the national research data infrastructures might be enforced by convergence of to date different information models.

Keywords: Germany; data access; digital transformation; electronic health records; health services research; outpatient care; routine data; secondary use.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Outpatients*