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Fraunhofer IBMT in EU-Project ENSURE: Digital Long-term Preservation of Electronic Health Data

Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT contributes his expertise in health telematics and biomedical databases to the European Project ENSURE concerning digital long-term preservation of electronic health record data.

Building on its expertise in innovative biomedical ICT infrastructures for long-term cryo-preservation of biomaterial, Fraunhofer IBMT announced today that it is participating in a joint research initiative of thirteen European partners to develop the technologies to go beyond current state-of-the-art technologies in long term digital preservation.

The European Union funded initiative, called "ENSURE – Enabling kNowledge Sustainability, Usability and Recovery for Economic Value" will draw on actual use cases from health care, clinical trials, and financial services to focus on a large number of issues which have not fully addressed up until now, such as:

1. Securely leveraging a scalable pay-as-you go infrastructure.

2. Having businesses understand the economic implications of preservation.

3. Conforming to regulatory, contractual and legal requirements as part of a whole workflow

4. Managing long-term integrity and authenticity of significant intellectual property or highly personal data.

5. Using off-the-shelf ICT technologies for preservation to support different types of digital resources.

As the twenty first century progresses, our citizens and businesses are producing and receiving exponentially growing amounts of digital data. At the same time, technology keeps racing forward, with data formats being replaced and media form factors changing. Many of our commercially-oriented organizations are facing the serious problem of economically preserving a wide variety of data for future use, while ensuring protection of sensitive business data and privacy of individuals.

In a Storage Networking Industry Association survey over 80% of respondents had retention requirements over 50 years, and an IDC report predicted that by 2011, roughly 35% of information “might reasonably be expected to be stored for 10 years or more”. While past digital preservation efforts have focused on cultural heritage, there is a real, emerging need, driven by regulatory compliance and business value, for long-term digital preservation in more commercial-oriented sectors.

Funded for three years, and with an overall budget of over eleven million euro, ENSURE will introduce a breakthrough reference architecture for long-term digital preservation which is based around four main areas of innovation – evaluating cost and value for different digital preservation solutions, automation of the preservation lifecycle in a way which can integrate with organizations' existing workflow processes, content-aware long term data protection to address such issues as changes in personally identifiable information (PII), new and changing regulations, and obtaining a scalable solution by leveraging wider ICT innovations such as cloud technology.

Fraunhofer IBMT is a leading technology developer for long-term cryo-preservation of biomaterial. The institute hosts several important bioarchives. Biobanks represent research resources of enormous value. However, this value can only be ensured if not only the quality of the biomaterial is maintained over the time but also the usability of the data that describe the characteristics of the biomaterial and its provenance and without them the biomaterial is worthless. Fraunhofer IBMT will contribute to this goal in ENSURE. Additionally it will research how formal ontologies can support long-term preservation in order to improve for example indexing of the domain specific digital objects and later searches and retrieval but also in order to describe preservation concepts and to trigger necessary transformations of digital objects to ensure their usability after decades. Fraunhofer IBMT will provide the respective semantic framework for ENSURE’s long-term preservation architecture. With its profound experience in developing innovative ICT solutions for biomedical research and for healthcare provision Fraunhofer IBMT will contribute to ensure that electronic health record data and clinical trial data but also data from the financial sector are securely ingested in the long-term preservation system and can be found and retrieved again after decades.

More information on ENSURE is available at

Dipl.-Inform. Stephan Kiefer
Telephone: +49 (0) 6894/980-156

Annette Maurer | Fraunhofer-Institut
Further information:

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