February 9, 2016 | Emma/Pamela
Prior to joining Aridhia, and during my MSc course in Stratified Medicine and Pharmacological Innovation at the University of Glasgow, I often used Gartner’s ‘Hype Cycle’ to describe and critically evaluate new technologies and innovations in healthcare. Studying at the cutting edge of medical innovation means that I am of the opinion that precision medicine provides more hope than hype, despite the translational barriers that currently exist. We are already seeing the benefits of stratified approaches, albeit slowly, but the potential is most definitely there.
One example of this potential is demonstrated by the Rheumatoid Arthritis exemplar project running at the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre. Led by Professor Iain McInnes at the University of Glasgow, the project aims to identify a genetic signature in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis that can predict those who will and those who will not respond to methotrexate, the most popular treatment, at the outset of their disease. The study is showing very promising preliminary results, and if successful, will allow rheumatologists to more accurately assign patients to drugs that will work for them. You can watch a BBC News report about the project here.
Being no stranger to ‘Hype Cycle’ graph, I was therefore intrigued when I was recently handed a copy of Gartner’s ‘Transformational Digital Disruptions in Healthcare by 2025’, published late last year, with the promise that I might find some of the content surprising.
What wasn’t surprising was that precision medicine was described as one of only 10 profiles which Gartner consider to be truly transformational in digital healthcare over the next 10 years. However, the truly interesting part of the report was the way that one of the transformational profiles, Advanced Clinical Research Information Systems (ACRIS), was described. Despite such a set of capabilities being described as 2-5 years away from mainstream adoption, it was very clear to me and my colleagues that AnalytiXagility – our collaborative data platform – is exactly what Gartner describes as an ACRIS. And contrary to the report, it is commercially available now and gaining traction across the UK and Europe as part of major healthcare and research initiatives.
There were a few key points which Gartner notably failed to highlight in the report, which could have been emphasised and expanded upon, and which I will address later in this article.
The Gartner ACRIS
The report describes an ACRIS as, “a complex constellation of capabilities that can rapidly assemble data assets for clinical research questions. It also provides data mining and research process support to meet the needs of clinical and translational research, and related biostatistics and biocomputation. It includes electronic health record (EHR) access, open-source components and an approach for big data needs.”
Despite ACRIS being described as in the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’, and therefore not having reached the ‘Plateau of Productivity’, where, according to Gartner, “real-world benefits of the technology are demonstrated and accepted”, AnalytiXagility is already demonstrating its application in clinical research and beyond, into integrated care, clinical trials, patient recruitment, and more.
Gartner defines transformational as something that “enables new ways of doing business across industries that will result in major shifts in industry dynamics” – that it changes the game in some way. The Aridhia team have strived to create a game-changing technology with AnalytiXagility, and it is great to see Gartner acknowledge and validate our vision and execution of it.
The AnalytiXagility ACRIS
As Gartner’s report accurately points out, clinical research is a big business, and in order for research-oriented healthcare delivery organisations to gain competitive advantage, they must acknowledge and address the move towards an increasingly competitive and collaborative environment.
From the start, Aridhia’s approach has been to enable a collaborative, data-driven pipeline that runs from ‘analytics to applications’ and which addresses the major informatics challenges faced throughout the research lifecycle by our customers.
By facilitating multi-site data integration, analysis and collaboration, AnalytiXagility addresses each one of the ACRIS requirements as described in Gartner’s report, including:
- Clinical trial data capture and analysis
- Access to and mining of EHRs (including unstructured data) and other sources
- Automatic correlation of data with medical knowledge
- Access to external data and open-source tools, translating between ACRIS data models and vocabularies, tools like SAS and R for statistical computing and graphics, i2b2, and tranSMART
- Patient data deidentification
- Facilitation of researcher workflows (scientific method, grant prep/management)
We think that AnalytiXagility is this ACRIS; a transformational, disruptive technology for health and research organisations who want to achieve sustainable change, and to industrialise the process of analytic collaboration and its operational delivery. As Gartner acknowledge in the report, the participants associated with clinical research is changing. It is no longer just highly trained researchers or analysts, but increasingly whole organisations who must play their part. Closer relationships must be forged to drive improved collaboration and change.
From the start, Aridhia has focused on embracing open innovation model that fosters collaboration between partners from across the healthcare and life sciences industries. AnalytiXagility is the technological platform which underpins this type of multi-organisational collaborative approach, and allows safe handling and sharing of privileged data. Examples of this include our work as part of the ADVOCATE project team – a collaboration of 11 organisations across 6 European countries, focused on using a modern data science approach to develop a new model of prevention-oriented oral healthcare. Or our work with NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University College London, which is using AnalytiXagility to look at their data in depth and reveal how data science can support multidisciplinary teams to collaborate, integrate and interrogate information in meaningful and informative ways.
Though we must acknowledge some user’s ambivalence in the face of IT, we have designed AnalytiXagility to present analysis in a way that the whole audience can easily understand. This is why we are leading the way with a platform and services which enable users to rapidly explore, simulate, evaluate and validate data for population health initiatives, precision medicine concepts, collaborative research hypotheses and adaptive trial designs in a risk-free, fully audited, private data environment.
What the report doesn’t say
While it was great to read a report which seems to truly emphasise the extensive benefit systems such as AnalytiXagility will have on clinical research, there were two key points which bear further investigation.
“An ACRIS is not a single packaged solution an enterprise can just go buy.”
Although I agree that an ACRIS is far from a single packaged solution, I do feel that the reasons why could have been further detailed in Gartner’s report. Providing a service such as an ACRIS is not about offering packaged vertical solutions, but about providing an extensible, platform-based approach which can integrate with other systems – effectively providing a service which facilitates horizontal capability across borders.
Enabled by advances in third generation technologies, platform-based business models and services like AnalytiXagility provide the capability to transform operations by linking data and services across organisational and geographical boundaries. Examples of well-known services which provide this type of capability in other markets, as originally described by Tom Goodwin from Havas, are: Uber – the world’s largest taxi firm, who own no cars; and Airbnb – the world’s largest accommodation provider, who own no property. These data-driven companies are paving the way for other integrative platform technologies.
Within healthcare, there are many examples of complex hierarchies, supply chains, data silos and communication gaps which disrupt end-to-end translation of innovations from ‘bench to bedside’, often described as broken innovation. In clinical research, this has often been used to account for elongated R&D lifecycles with several vertical capabilities which are difficult to scale and build upon. ACRIS will be the platform service that could radically improve efficiency in this industry by facilitating connections rather than building individual assets.
Facilitating this capability in clinical research, AnalytiXagility is a cloud-based, self-service, subscription-based platform which can be up-and-running within days to support the entire research lifecycle from data discovery to through to data distribution. At both an institutional or individual project level, AnalytiXagility allows users to tailor to the workspace to suit their environment, making it quick and easy for their teams to collect, link, analyse and share privileged data securely and responsibly.
In clinical research, goals do change, and analytic tools and technologies will fall in and out of favour, so in light of this, Aridhia have also designed AnalytiXagility as a flexible solution that can mirror ever-changing research demands. The Gartner report acknowledges that researchers will always have their preferred tools, which is why we will launch a virtual desktop capability within weeks, enabling project teams to integrate their favourite solutions into the AnalytiXagility environment, while maintaining access to their data. This opens up both the collaborative and audit functionality to a broader audience.
“Clinical research leaders need to learn to comply with changing regulations and breach reporting…”
As an increasing number of funding bodies and grant applications mandate multi and cross-border collaborations, organisations need the ability to rapidly assemble data assets that support not only collaboration, but also maintain stringent information governance principles and adherence to tight regulations associated with data sharing protocols. And while this report advises that research-oriented healthcare delivery organisations that do not invest in ACRIS will face increased difficulty in gaining global funding, what isn’t mentioned is that information governance is critically important in making research both collaborative and reproducible.
By giving research leaders access to audit functionality and traceability to monitor and instrument data usage and supply programmable analytics for reproducibility, research management and billing, AnalytiXagility removes the burden of ensuring compliance that is currently placed on individuals, and makes such audit functionality an inherent part of the computational technologies used to perform analysis.
This balance between collaboration and information governance is critical, and provides an obvious benefit to large, multi-site research collaborations such as the European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium, which is using AnalytiXagility as its analytics platform.
When describing the features and benefits of ACRIS in this report, yes, this type of system must provide tooling, analytics etc. but in my opinion, an equally important feature of any ACRIS would be to support data security and IG.
All in all, I was pleased to read that Gartner are aligning to our vision here at Aridhia. AnalytiXagility has been available in the market for almost two years now and we think that it could be considered as one of the most transformational and disruptive technologies available for health and research organisations who want to improve efficiency and achieve long-term, sustainable change.