Infectious and tropical diseases account for a third of deaths worldwide. The Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Méditerranée Infection is on the front line tackling these diseases, processing around 1,500 biological samples every day. To make these samples easier to access for international clinical research purposes, the IHU has established an automated solution for the two biobanks which are part of its university hospital information system. Enovacom, a French e-healthcare software publisher and subsidiary of Orange Business Services, helped IHU design a tailored digital architecture.
Optimizing biological sample management
IHU Méditerranée Infection is the only microbiology institute in France dedicated to infectious and tropical diseases. It comprises a clinical laboratory, a hospital (AP-HM), and a university research laboratory. With an infection and microbiology database, and a collection of bacteria and viruses accessible to researchers worldwide, its two large biobanks can store 900,000 biological samples. Biobanks are organized structures, governing and managing biological resources (collections of biological samples taken from patients, with their consent for treatment or research purposes). To keep the system secure and ensure that these samples can be supplied rapidly to teams of clinicians or researchers, the IHU wanted to optimize the management of its two biobanks. As it did not have the in-house IT resources to do so, the IHU researchers called upon Enovacom, a subsidiary of Orange Business Services specializing in e-healthcare solutions.
The Enovacom teams were by our side throughout the process, even during lockdown. We’re confident that if we need to upgrade the solution in the future, they can meet our needs.
Pierre-Edouard Fournier, Professor of microbiology at the Institut Hospitalo-universitaire Méditerranée Infection in Marseille
An IT architecture designed for the healthcare and research sector
The IHU and AP-HM teams began to devise a project, with Enovacom, which met their needs. “The major challenge was creating an IT architecture to store and track samples without manual input, whilst adhering to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR),” explains Laurent Frigara, CEO and co-founder of Enovacom.
Following an analysis stage, where several scenarios were considered, the chosen solution includes four elements:
- a data warehouse which hosts and shares sample information
- EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) software which allows multiple software packages to communicate with each other. This covers both the AP-HM and research laboratory’s IT systems, allowing applications interoperability and information sharing between university and hospital networks
- the management of robotic hands and an interface to link the automated biobanks
- a management application to coordinate the entire system.
During the launch, an initial observation phase allowed the key project stakeholders to draw on test data to ensure a successful production launch. The user-friendly, durable and scalable solution also includes a patient data anonymization process and secures exchanges between applications.
Valuable operational benefits for researchers
The IHU is the first French institute with an automated biobank able to manage up to 3.59 million samples, while ensuring that patient data is kept secure. It can store and retrieve samples at high speed - going from 0.04 samples per minute to 16.6 samples per minute (426 times faster) - which means they can be used for rapid clinical research. Automated sample processing limits errors and allows biobank technicians to save time.
These valuable operational benefits for researchers were made possible through a truly collaborative approach, as confirmed by Pierre-Edouard Fournier, Professor of microbiology at the IHU: “The Enovacom teams were by our side throughout the process, even during lockdown. We’re confident that if we need to upgrade the solution in the future, they can easily meet our needs.”