The SPHN Semantic Interoperability Framework

Semantic interoperability ensures that information is consistently interpretable by both machines and humans - across projects, systems, countries and over time. To enable the use of health data from clinical routine and other sources for research, SPHN has developed a semantic interoperability framework.

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How it is implemented

Semantic representation (Pillar 1)

SPHN Concepts are generalizable building blocks, which can be used in different contexts. Each concept contains all information necessary to understand it, and concepts can be combined to composed concepts, which again can be combined to more complex compositions. It is important to find the right level between abstraction and granularity to optimize the power of expression. The approach can be illustrated with the example of heart rate. Next to heart rate, there are other rates measured, such as respiratory rate. Therefore, we can abstract rate as a concept on its own. The concept of rate is composed of two concepts: events and unit. These concepts describe a rate no matter if it is the rate of the heart beat or the rate of breathing. Both, heart rate and respiratory rate can be combined to the concept of vital signs. Where needed value sets or standards (e.g. LOINC, SNOMED-CT, ICD-10, ICD-O3, CHOP, ATC) are recommended for each concept. Definitions for concepts and value sets as well as standards are aligned with national and international sources.


Data transport and storage (Pillar 2)

SPHN concepts and their instances (i.e., the data) can easily be mapped from/to other data representations or merged with other RDF data sets without losing their semantic.

The relations between different concepts and the data are expressed in triples made of a “subject” a “predicate” and an “object”. In the example, the RDF triple says that the Civil status (subject) has datetime (predicate) “01.01.2000” (object) and a status (predicated) which is “single” (object). Since RDF does not depend on a specific semantic standard, it allows to use different ontologies, and value sets as defined in the SPHN Dataset.


Watch the following videos to learn more about the SPHN Strategy

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