BLOG – Reflections on the OHDSI Europe Symposium 2022

The OHDSI Europe Symposium 2022 (24-26 June) kicked off aboard the majestic transatlantic ship: the SS Rotterdam (moored permanently on the Meuse river in Rotterdam). It was a very anticipated and successful event in many respects, so I thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on what made this one so special.

This was actually the third OHDSI Europe Symposium, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was a two-year gap between the last event in 2019 and this one. The 2020 one that was to be held in Oxford was converted to the COVID-19 study-a-thon. So, having everyone together again after this hiatus was itself very noteworthy. The level of interaction and camaraderie were truly inspiring – and it was clear that this was a feeling shared by the 350 attendees who came from across Europe and globally. In fact, we structured the meeting to ensure there was plenty of time to have discussions on the more than 80 posters that were on display – and to be able to catch up, face-to-face in a live and relaxed setting.

In addition to this, the Symposium was very rich in content. The “cruise around Europe” session in particular was an excellent way to showcase the significant progress that is being made all over Europe.  The creation of national nodes in multiple countries was especially inspiring. Just to be clear on what is meant by national nodes, these are data partners, companies, and research institutes in a particular country that together drive the adoption of the OMOP Common Data Model and facilitate national and international collaborations. This is speeding up the time it takes to conduct research and generate real world evidence that is ultimately improving patient outcomes. This is exactly how sustainability should be implemented, at scale, and driven by many!

I must also call out the important role that EHDEN played in the success of the meeting. Firstly, I’m particularly proud of the progress in the adoption and growth of a common data model that we have stimulated in Europe. It’s now clear to everyone that we are contributing significantly to a paradigm shift that recognises the value of a common data model on an industrial scale. The impressive growth of the Data Partner and SME networks across Europe is also very gratifying, which when we launched EHDEN in late 2018, was by no means a given.

What it’s really all about

The EHDEN Portal and Data Catalogue, an important EHDEN milestone, was launched at the Symposium, and as the Data Partners finish their mapping exercise, we can start to accelerate the number of studies that were simply not possible until now. Interestingly, the pandemic served as a tangible example of what we can do to facilitate research and studies that can make a meaningful difference in helping to fight a global menace such as COVID-19.

After all, generating better quality, real world evidence faster is exactly why EHDEN was created to begin with! The perfect example of this was the impressive work led by Erica Voss titled “Characterizing Vaccine Adverse Events in COVID-19 patients across the OHDSI network”. A study that included approximately 500 million people including 24 million patients with COVID-19. This is what is driving us all every day, enabling large-scale analysis of observational data to improve patient care.

In addition to what I just mentioned, the symposium also provided updates on where we are on the OHDSI journey; evidence generation; a full-day workshop on “Designing and implementing a network characterization study”; and OHDSI working group meetings. A link to the full story with videos is here and you can also listen to a Voice of EHDEN podcast that I made with Nigel Hughes that covers the Symposium.

Peter Rijnbeek

Chair of the Department of Medical Informatics, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam

Coordinator of EHDEN

Executive Director of the DARWIN EU Coordination Centre

Lead for OHDSI Europe