First Steps: PEACH Tooling

First Steps articles are brief introductions to the PEACH projects.

The Tooling team are developing a form builder for PEACH. This will allow clinicians and researchers to easily create new forms, in order to collect new data and support new projects. This is a particularly tricky enterprise when dealing with a complex information model, in this case openEHR.
Nancy, German and Angela are here to tell us more.

Today, one of the main challenges in healthcare IT is the processing of large amounts of meaningful data. Currently the majority of UK hospitals have proprietary patient data management systems that address this need, all using their own data models. You can find out more about the complexities of information models here, here and here.

This variation of information models means that transferring patient data from one hospital to another becomes problematic, as you have to convert data from one model to another. People tend to work around this by sending bulk documents (usually pdf’s) which are hard to interrogate, or retyping information manually (leading to transcription errors).

In order to standardise data storage and processing the PEACH platform has chosen the openEHR standard — a set of data architecture principles that ensure data compatibility across a variety of systems. Our team was given the task of developing a generator of medical forms, based on the openEHR standard.

This is technically very difficult work, and we will briefly outline the concepts below, though it is probably overkill for the majority of this audience. Please skip over it if your eyes are glazing over!!

Here is an overview of the system architecture:
The system accepts openEHR operational templates as inputs — these are XML files that contain information about data fields to be included on the form.
After a user inputs a template into the system, the Parser object creates an array of tokens that are passed to the form generator, which outputs a markup file based on the tokens provided. This file provides the structure of the form and links to the openEHR-compatible backend, which will ensure that the data is stored within an appropriate structure.
Then, the form is rendered and returned back to the user, who will able to customise the form layout according to their preferences. When the user is happy with the form layout, it is saved and the final version of the markup file is sent to their local machine.
A view of our first working prototype. This shows the creation of a basic form using an imported openEHR archetype. (EDIT: Updated with larger gif)

This will be a challenging project, but we are excited to deliver a piece of software that will have a profound impact on data interoperability in such a crucial field as healthcare.

The current PEACH Tooling team are:

Nancy Amelia -

German Mikulski -

Angela (Yuan) Pan -

We hope to hear more from the PEACH Tooling team and the other PEACH teams as the projects develop. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

To be kept informed of our progress, please follow us on Medium.

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