Background: Routinely recorded primary care data have been used for many years by sentinel networks for surveillance. More recently, real world data have been used for a wider range of research projects to support rapid, inexpensive clinical trials. Because the partial national lockdown in the United Kingdom due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in decreasing community disease incidence, much larger numbers of general practices are needed to deliver effective COVID-19 surveillance and contribute to in-pandemic clinical trials.
Objective: The aim of this protocol is to describe the rapid design and development of the Oxford Royal College of General Practitioners Clinical Informatics Digital Hub (ORCHID) and its first two platforms. The Surveillance Platform will provide extended primary care surveillance, while the Trials Platform is a streamlined clinical trials platform that will be integrated into routine primary care practice.
Methods: We will apply the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) metadata principles to a new, integrated digital health hub that will extract routinely collected general practice electronic health data for use in clinical trials and provide enhanced communicable disease surveillance. The hub will be findable through membership in Health Data Research UK and European metadata repositories. Accessibility through an online application system will provide access to study-ready data sets or developed custom data sets. Interoperability will be facilitated by fixed linkage to other key sources such as Hospital Episodes Statistics and the Office of National Statistics using pseudonymized data. All semantic descriptors (ie, ontologies) and code used for analysis will be made available to accelerate analyses. We will also make data available using common data models, starting with the US Food and Drug Administration Sentinel and Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership approaches, to facilitate international studies. The Surveillance Platform will provide access to data for health protection and promotion work as authorized through agreements between Oxford, the Royal College of General Practitioners, and Public Health England. All studies using the Trials Platform will go through appropriate ethical and other regulatory approval processes.
Results: The hub will be a bottom-up, professionally led network that will provide benefits for member practices, our health service, and the population served. Data will only be used for SQUIRE (surveillance, quality improvement, research, and education) purposes. We have already received positive responses from practices, and the number of practices in the network has doubled to over 1150 since February 2020. COVID-19 surveillance has resulted in tripling of the number of virology sites to 293 (target 300), which has aided the collection of the largest ever weekly total of surveillance swabs in the United Kingdom as well as over 3000 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) serology samples. Practices are recruiting to the PRINCIPLE (Platform Randomised trial of INterventions against COVID-19 In older PeopLE) trial, and these participants will be followed up through ORCHID. These initial outputs demonstrate the feasibility of ORCHID to provide an extended national digital health hub.
Conclusions: ORCHID will provide equitable and innovative use of big data through a professionally led national primary care network and the application of FAIR principles. The secure data hub will host routinely collected general practice data linked to other key health care repositories for clinical trials and support enhanced in situ surveillance without always requiring large volume data extracts. ORCHID will support rapid data extraction, analysis, and dissemination with the aim of improving future research and development in general practice to positively impact patient care.
- Adaptive clinical trials
- Clinical trials as a topic
- General practice
- Medical record systems, computerized
- Primary health care
- Public health surveillance
- Sentinel surveillance
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2