3 min

What is the Health Data Hub all about?

The Health Data Hub is a public entity responsible for simplifying and standardizing access to health data, while ensuring its control and security. It was created on the recommendation of the renowned Villani mission on Artificial Intelligence in a 2019 Health law.

The Health Data Hub is thus an organization that is building a “commons” in the health data ecosystem. It is also a pioneering demonstration of the combined use of the cloud and AI for the benevolent purpose of improving the healthcare system and health research. This is an object that should restore confidence in the positive virtues of science and technological progress!

To a certain extent, the Health Data Hub is to the benevolent power of the cloud what the creation of Paris Saclay was to French research. It doesn’t matter if existing functional projects are overwritten (notably at the APHP), or if the final object is put before its components, what is important to highlight is the change in scale, which is the only way to produce the desired effects.

​​Unfortunately, the Health Data Hub is as unpopular as the Saclay campus. This is due to Microsoft’s initial choice, which immediately undermines its showcasing dimension. When you are a “symbol”, the content is as important as the container. In this case, French expertise will stop at Microsoft’s integration and at the outcome we hope to see on this cloud. As with the Saclay plateau, all is not lost, time can still work its magic… But the process of starting up has been a headlong rush ever since.

Even worse, the stubbornness to repeatedly maintain that European players would not be at the level of being a showcase, constantly postponing the infrastructure’s transition dates, raises serious questions about the intention of the people making such statements. Can we really imagine the Paris 2024 Olympics relying on Alibaba as a cloud infrastructure? This is a bad example because it’s what was actually planned! Can we really imagine French nuclear power plants relying on Chinese expertise in the future? Yet another bad example…

The Health Data Hub is part of a more general movement of “letting go”, where nobody notices the devastating power of symbols, nor seems to realize that “it shows”, where no decision-maker seems to see the limited credibility of the public word on digital sovereignty… The Health Data Hub has become a showcase, indeed, but of renunciation.

So what is the Health Data Hub all about? Industrial renunciation to be done. In the cloud, this is, unfortunately, not so surprising. The problem lies mainly in the lack of radical transparency, of some kind of intellectual honesty. What is most disturbing is this approach, in which this renunciation is disguised by using elements of language (EDL), “technico-bullshit” arguments, and in which the burden of proof is constantly reversed. It is up to those who condemn Microsoft’s choice to prove that they can make a better Health Data Hub based on specifications they’re not familiar with, and, moreover, without any money? That’s where we stand… Perhaps it’s not possible to assume that they made this choice other than “unwillingly”?

But do you know the worst part? A number of projects that existed before the Health Data Hub had already proven to be successful in this area! Our quest for International Pioneering Excellence should have considered a little more of what already existed (which implies accepting to no longer pretend to be exceptional…), and to appreciate its outlines, its strengths and its limitations. Perhaps even try to remedy these limits by relying on this great and catalyzing project that could have been the HDH. And thus adopt a radically new approach: a transparent co-construction based on principles and values.

We can’t really blame the government. After years of enormous projects between consulting firms and ESNs that have not always been successful, disguising renunciation is perhaps the best way to preserve our French ego.

Nevertheless, co-construction based on action principles and sharing values would have been a real revolution for industrial France, and worthy of being showcased! Rest assured, I’m not naive, I know that we can’t spend all this money with French companies relying on European technologies. But, in fact… why is this so, exactly?

Send this to a friend