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Opportunities of Digital Infrastructures for Disease Management—Exemplified on COVID-19-Related Change in Diagnosis Counts for Diabetes-Related Eye Diseases
Retrospective research on real-world data provides the ability to gain evidence on specific topics especially when running across different sites in research networks. Those research networks have become increasingly relevant in recent years; not least due to the special situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An important requirement for those networks is the data harmonization by ensuring the semantic interoperability. Aims: In this paper we demonstrate (1) how to facilitate digital infrastructures to run a retrospective study in a research network spread across university and non-university hospital sites; and (2) to answer a medical question on COVID-19 related change in diagnostic counts for diabetes-related eye diseases. Materials and methods: The study is retrospective and non-interventional and runs on medical case data documented in routine care at the participating sites. The technical infrastructure consists of the OMOP CDM and other OHDSI tools that is provided in a transferable format. An ETL process to transfer and harmonize the data to the OMOP CDM has been utilized. Cohort definitions for each year in observation have been created centrally and applied locally against medical case data of all participating sites and analyzed with descriptive statistics. Results: The analyses showed an expectable drop of the total number of diagnoses and the diagnoses for diabetes in general; whereas the number of diagnoses for diabetes-related eye diseases surprisingly decreased stronger compared to non-eye diseases. Differences in relative changes of diagnoses counts between sites show an urgent need to process multi-centric studies rather than single-site studies to reduce bias in the data. Conclusions: This study has demonstrated the ability to utilize an existing portable and standardized infrastructure and ETL process from a university hospital setting and transfer it to non-university sites. From a medical perspective further activity is needed to evaluate data quality of the utilized real-world data documented in routine care and to investigate its eligibility of this data for research.