‘Healthcare Data Sandbox’ Synthesizes Data to Help Overcome Research Privacy Concerns

Feb. 18, 2019
MDClone partners with the Institute for Informatics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

After launching a pilot program in 2018, MDClone and the Institute for Informatics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will work together to broaden implementation of the company's big data platform, called the MDClone Healthcare Data Sandbox.

Israel-based MDClone said its Sandbox allows researchers to analyze data while preserving patient privacy. By analyzing large amounts of anonymized data, Washington University researchers ultimately hope to improve care provided to patients.

MDClone creates a synthetic copy of healthcare data collected from actual patient populations. While the synthetic data set is virtually identical to the original data, there's no identifying information that can be traced back to individual patients, the company said.

"To both protect patient privacy and be able to analyze health data in a meaningful way, we required a platform that would give us the ability to generate data sets that look and feel like data from real patients," said Philip Payne, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Informatics, in a prepared statement. "The synthetic data that was produced by this platform is statistically identical to data from real patients, but it can't be associated with individual patients. This solution also allows us to quickly ask and answer important research questions that can improve the care we provide to patients and the health of the communities we serve."

To validate MDClone's platform, teams at Washington University selected three pilot studies to compare MDClone's synthetic data against the original data. In one project, researchers evaluated factors that influence pediatric admissions to the intensive care unit; another looked at whether a machine learning algorithm can predict sepsis; and a third evaluated the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections by location. The projects were selected because of interest to the healthcare community and the diversity of data and statistical models required for analyses. In each pilot study, the statistical analyses showed the synthetic data is a valid stand in for the original data, the Institute said.

Washington University isn’t the only U.S. partner for MDClone. In December 2018 Regenstrief Institute of Indianapolis announced a partnership with MDClone. At the time Peter Embi, M.D., Regenstrief Institute president and chief executive officer, said the partnership would enhance Regenstrief’s efforts to accelerate research and innovation by significantly shortening the time to deliver research-ready, privacy-preserving synthetic data, thereby enabling new discoveries, improving quality and reducing costs.

The Regenstrief and MDClone partnership plans to work on data-driven initiatives with the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University Health, Eskenazi Health and the Indiana Health Information Exchange