Sylvia Thun receives German Cross of Merit
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has awarded Professor Sylvia Thun the Cross of Merit on Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her services in the field of healthcare digitalization. Both a physician and engineer by training, Thun is the Director of the Core Facility Digital Medicine and Interoperability at the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH). She has made special contributions to medical data standardization, with the aim of pulling together health data from different sources in order to facilitate better diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.
The healthcare sector generates countless data every day – information about diagnoses, treatments and disease progression as well as information about molecular details and metabolic processes. “We have a vast treasure trove of data,” Professor Sylvia Thun says. “It would be unethical not to use these data.” Yet data from research and healthcare are recorded differently in every laboratory and every hospital – they are formulated differently, formatted differently and stored in different software systems, if not on paper. That makes the data difficult to use. Interoperability, the ability to exchange and share data from a variety of sources, is now being addressed by a new expert panel.
© Bundesregierung / Julia Fassbender
Communication standards in healthcare
“We need communication standards in the healthcare system,” says Thun, a physician and medical IT specialist. “So we have made it our mission to process data from medical care, from molecular biological findings, from tissue and blood examinations, and from pathology reports in a structured way.” After heading the national standards developing organizations IHE and HL7 Germany for many years, Thun currently chairs the German umbrella organization for IT standards in healthcare (SITiG) and serves as an expert to the international standards bodies DIN, CEN and ISO. She has recently become head of the Interop Council for Digital Health in Germany, which was set up by the Federal Ministry of Health.
All standards organizations are globally connected, because health and disease do not stop at borders. The HL7 international community has stressed in an open letter about the conflict in Eastern Europe that its “mission is one of peace, care, mutual understanding and non-violent resolution of all conflicts.” It said that its thoughts and goodwill are “with our fellow community members in the region as they endure these events.”
Professor Christopher Baum, Chair of the BIH Board of Directors and Chief Translational Research Officer of Charité, congratulates Sylvia Thun for receiving this prestigious award: “We are pleased to see the German President honor Sylvia Thun with this outstanding recognition. Professor Thun’s work is of immense importance to the BIH’s goal of advancing healthcare digitalization for the benefit of patients and science. We are therefore delighted to have her in our ranks.”
Professor Sylvia Thun is excited to receive this award and honor from the German President: “This award is in recognition of our network’s activities around the world. I see myself as representing all the things we have achieved technologically in the last 20–30 years through working together, mostly in our spare time. I am thrilled to receive this award because it shows the importance that the German government gives to this issue. And I warmly thank them for that.”
But her real goal is to improve the care patients receive. “There are excellent projects that have shown how well things can be done when everybody works together. Many projects have clearly demonstrated that digitalization and interoperability can make healthcare better. And that’s what drives me: a desire to make healthcare better.”
http://Press release: “Sylvia Thun is setting standards for medical data”
http://Core Facility Digital Medicine and Interoperability at the BIH: https://www.bihealth.org/en/research/scientific-infrastructure/core-facilities/interoperability/home