Medical Information Technology Initiative

People hold certificates in their hands Copyright: © University Hospital Aachen

State Secretary Rachel presents the BMBF funding grants for the "SMITH" project.


The Federal Ministry of Eudcation and Research has approved funding for the large project "Smart Medical Information Technology for Healthcare," SMITH. The project will get new IT solutions off the ground to improve the link between data from patient care and medical research. On November 16, 2017, Thomas Rachel, parliamentary state secretary at the BMBF, presented the three funding grants for the project totally approximately 12 million euros.

"Medicine is facing a revolution," emphasized Rachel, while presenting the grants to University Hospital Aachen, RWTH Aachen, and Forschungszentrum Jülich. "The fast development of information technology, artificial intelligence, and the life sciences are opening up new possibilities to fundamentally change medicine. With the Medical Information Technology Initiative, the Federal Ministry is giving an important boost to the development of digital medicine. In the future doctors should be able to include all available research results and empirical values into their considerations for appropriate therapies at just the 'touch of a button'," says Rachel.

Consortium of 14 Partners

The SMITH consortium is made up of 14 partners and is being funded with about 35 million euros from the BMBF. Scientists, physicians, and IT specialists from the university medicine hubs of Aachen, Jena, and Leipzig will connect the growing amount of data in medicine – from gene analyses to x-rays – with a new IT infrastructure. To do this, SMITH is collaborating with external partners, including companies in industry, to establish data integration centers at the three university hospitals. The centers make it possible to use electronic health data from patient care and patient-oriented research between institutions and locations.

SMITH aims to demonstrate the value of this networked data in two cases of application. In the first case, patient data management systems on intensive care wards will be continuously analyzed to automate the monitoring of patients' conditions. "This will allow for faster and personalized therapy interventions," explained professor Gernot Marx, director of the Clinic for Operative Intensive Medicine and speaker of the Telemedizinzentrum Aachen. In an additional case a computer-based decision aid system will help doctors use antiobiotics in accordance with guidelines. This should improve early and targeted fights against infections and reduce the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. "Digital medicine has great potential to save additional lives in both cases," says Marx.

"Digitalization is a central topic for the state government in NRW, RWTH Aachen, and University Hospital Aachen. Our leading role in digital medicine has been confirmed by the decision of the internationally recognized selection committee. Aachen is the only medical university and city in NRW to receive full funding. The SMITH consortium developed the concepts in such a way that they strengthen research, teaching, and patient care. Regional cooperation in patient care will also profit from the work," said professor Stefan Uhlig, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at RWTH Aachen and member of the board at University Hospital Aachen.

Within the framework of the project a concept to include partners from different sectors of care will be developed and tested. The network partners will be able to use SMITH's results in a secure data "marketplace." Additionally, there are plans to establish new courses of study and professorships in the areas of medical information technology and related disciplines.

Photo Caption

State Secretary Thomas Rachel (fourth from right) presents the BMBF funding grants for the "SMITH" project to professor Gernot Marx (fifth from left).