Scoop: data analysis without sharing patient data

June 2022

Combining and analyzing data of thousands of patients from different sources while ensuring complete privacy. Neither party sees the other’s individual personal data, but important conclusions can be drawn about the whole.

This feat was accomplished in 2021 by the founders of Linksight, then still employed by TNO. They did this in cooperation with health insurer CZ, the Limburg hospital Zuyderland Medical Center and the Central Bureau of Statistics.

It was the first time in the Netherlands that the special cryptographic technique MPC was successfully deployed on real sensitive personal data. Including all legal safeguards.

The project: privacy preserving analytics (PPA)1

In this project, data from more than 4,000 patients were analyzed using a privacy-by-design approach. CZ used its claims data. Zuyderland its data on the use and healthcare outcomes of the eHealth app Mijn IBDCoach. CBS used its data on socioeconomic factors, such as education level and income. Neither of these parties could see the other’s sensitive data. Nor was there a Trusted Third Party; a 3rd party combining the data on behalf of the others. And yet they were able to jointly calculate how effective the eHealth app was for different patient groups.

Privacy and security safeguarded

The project also looked at the legal aspects. The method complies with the General Data Protection Regulation (AVG/GDPR), as well as laws specific to some parties, such as the Medical Treatment Agreement Act (WGBO) and the CBS Act. The parties jointly conducted a data protection impact assessment (DPIA). Review by outside experts showed strong protection of personal data in this approach. Using MPC ensures data minimization, proportionality and privacy-by-design. External experts also looked at security and validated the method at various levels.

How do we keep healthcare affordable?

With this project, TNO laid the foundation for analyzing data across healthcare chains. This is much needed, because the accessibility and affordability of our healthcare system are under increasing pressure. There are also many innovations and new interventions in healthcare, all of which have to find their place. By combining data, new insights are created. Healthcare parties can now also continuously monitor the effects of their interventions. This allows them to really start collaborating across chains, data-supported. With this, for example, regional elderly care can be organized differently, prediction models can be improved based on the local situation, and parties can compare themselves. All ways to keep improving care step-by-step.

The seed for the creation of Linksight

After proving that the approach works technically and legally, not much later Linksight was established as a TNO spin-off company to bring this technology and approach to the market. Meanwhile, data collaborations between healthcare providers, insurers and municipalities are being set up in several regions, using the Linksight platform. Examples include regional collaborations in elderly care in Delft, Achterhoek and Zeeland, or applications in oncology and cardiology.

Read more about this project:

Contact Linksight for more information.

  1. This project was made possible in part by funding from Holland High Tech  ↩︎