Improving Patient Care through Partnership
How Cooperative Research can Result in Multiple Benefits for the Partners
Claudia Frumento | Aug 10, 2016
Dr. Josep Campistol, CEO of Hospital Clinic de Barcelona (HCB), Dr. Aurea Mira, Director of its Biomedical Diagnostic Center, and David Stein, Head of Strategy and Innovation at Siemens Healthineers, talk about the reasons for engaging in an integrated partnership that focuses on a joint research program.
Photos: Walther Appelt
Challenge: Partnerships in clinical research offer multiple benefits, but also mean that organizations with different corporate cultures must learn to work together.
Solution: Hospital Clinic de Barcelona and Siemens Healthineers managed to establish a close cooperation and defined promising research projects with an integrated team approach and the leadership of the hospital’s physicians.
Results: The cooperation resulted in, among other things, a powerful new tool for the non-invasive diagnosis and monitoring of liver fibrosis. This improved therapeutic management and freed up hospital and healthcare system resources. The hospital’s fully integrated laboratory proved to be highly valuable in the research process.
Dr. Campistol and Mr. Stein, what were your reasons for engaging in the research cooperation?
Campistol: If you look at it historically, we already had a very good partnership with Siemens, which resulted from implementing one of the first centrally integrated laboratories in Europe at HCB. This paved the way for further projects, including new diagnostic methods for liver disease, colon cancer, and sudden cardiac death. Our interest was clear: HCB has an excellent infrastructure, enthusiastic clinicians, and access to patients. But we also needed expertise in cutting-edge technology and integration, insights into future developments, and proven technical support. This was what Siemens could offer.
Stein: For Siemens Healthineers, a key aspect was the willingness of HCB to think broadly, to use new technologies and approaches in a real-life clinical setting, and to evaluate how these can be integrated to improve patient management. It is crucial to have partners who work with us to test how our systems work in clinical routine.
How did you define the specific research projects?
Mira: We used a team approach from the beginning. All stakeholders – physicians, lab and imaging teams, and experts from Siemens – sat together and discussed areas of interest. Key for the process was the leadership of our physicians. Without the clinical perspective, the ultimate goal – finding diagnostic methods that are more comfortable and less dangerous for the patients – could have been botched.
What were the challenges of the cooperation?
Campistol: Two established organizations, HCB and Siemens, with different corporate cultures had to learn to work together. Communication channels – such as phone calls, e-mails, and face-to-face meetings – had to be defined.
Promising Projects at Hospital Clinic de Barcelona
Several promising projects undertaken at Hospital Clinic de Barcelona in cooperation with Siemens Healthineers focus on the early detection or even prediction of disease.
In patients with colon cancer, a specific molecular signature was investigated. Researchers developed an algorithm based on the activity of 27 selected genes in order to predict the probability of tumor recurrence.1 In the future, this may help to better individualize cancer treatment.
The use of specific blood biomarkers could lead to new, cost-effective screening tools for Down’s syndrome and preeclampsia.2 In addition, high-resolution magnetic resonance can be used to map scar tissue in the heart. Precise mapping is key for successful ablation therapy to prevent arrhythmias, and could even help predict the risk of sudden death in individual patients.3
Could you briefly describe the benefits of this program?
Mira: The cooperation allowed us to take steps in clinical research that we otherwise could not have taken. We definitely benefited from the technical expertise of Siemens. For our research program on non-invasive liver diagnostics, for example, the results are impressive. The combination of laboratory parameters and ultrasound imaging enabled us to integrate a new diagnostic tool into clinical practice. This meant we could avoid many liver biopsies, improve the disease management, and free up hospital resources such as beds, operating room facilities, and personnel.
And Siemens Healthineers?
Stein: Siemens Healthineers has greatly benefited from the cooperation. We have changed our perspective: we do not strive to be the leader in imaging, laboratory technology, or any other isolated method, but are now looking at how integration across the end-to-end clinical value chain will drive better patient outcomes with increased efficiency. Having our products and services in leading institutions such as HCB enables us to see what works and what has to be developed further. Feedback from the final users like this is highly valuable.
Dr. Campistol, could you tell us what the key lessons from this program are?
Campistol: Cooperative research between the public sector and industry is feasible and can result in multiple benefits for the partners, the community, and the patients. The only way to improve patient care is by partnering with industry; not doing so is neither sensible nor honorable.
About the Author
Dr. Claudia Frumento is a freelance medical writer with a PhD in medical information technology and extensive experience in the fields of medical devices, medical communications, and regulatory writing. She is fluent in English, German, and Spanish, and is based in Berlin, Germany.
1Giráldez MD, Lozano JJ, Cuatrecasas M, et al. (2013) Gene-expression signature of tumor recurrence in patients with stage II and III colon cancer treated with 5'fluoruracil-based adjuvant chemotherapy. Int J Cancer 132:1090-7
2Chambers AE, Mills WE, Mercadé I, et al (2014) The utility of circulating LHCGR as a predictor of Down’s syndrome in early pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 14:197 Scazzocchio E, Figueras F, Crispi F, et al. (2013) Performance of a first-trimester screening of preeclampsia in a routine care low-risk setting. Am J Obstet Gynecol 208:203.e1-10
3Andreu D, Ortiz-Pérez JT, Fernández-Armenta J, et al (2015) 3D delayed-enhanced magnetic resonance sequences improve conducting channel delineation prior to ventricular tachycardia ablation. Europace 17:938-45
The statements by Siemens’ customers described herein are based on results that were achieved in the customer's unique setting. Since there is no "typical" hospital and many variables exist (e.g., hospital size, case mix, level of IT adoption) there can be no guarantee that other customers will achieve the same results.