The project is funded by the European Commission through their Horizon 2020 programme (see http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/193321_en.html for ADVOCATE project page on EU Commission website).
The project has received almost 6 million Euros for a project which will last for four years.
ADVOCATE is a collaborative project involving universities, the public and private sectors. The countries involved are Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland and The Netherlands.
Since many diseases are preventable, this project aims to shift the focus of European oral health care. At the moment dental professionals spend most of their time treating the mouth and teeth once disease has occurred, with extractions and fillings. ADVOCATE aims to shift the balance in dental and oral health care practice towards a more preventive approach so that dental professionals will need to spend less time on restorative treatment and more of their time offering advice and support to people for their oral health maintenance, so that people can look after their own oral health more and avoid the need for restorative treatments.
The project will look at current patterns of treatment, health and costs, to see what works best in Europe. By using information that is already collected routinely, the project team will work with dental professionals and insurers to find out just how effective oral care treatments are in keeping patients healthy and happy and reducing disease. Then by continually giving feedback to dental professionals and insurers, the project aims to change the way that dental professionals deliver care to more of a partnership approach with their patients. This should result in better, more effective care.
Information that is already collected by health insurers and healthcare organisations in the participating countries will be analysed. This information will be kept safe and secure using IT (information technology) which makes sure that no personal information can be identified.
The ADVOCATE team takes information security very seriously and will look after information very carefully. Patient data will be de-identified, stored and analysed by the ADVOCATE team within a secure data science platform (AnalytiXagility by Aridhia) which has inbuilt technical and operational safeguards to keep data safe, and which follows best practice guidance on information governance.
The information will help the ADVOCATE team to look at things like how long teeth stay healthy with no need for treatment or how much is spent in each country on different types of treatment – like extractions – and then the different countries will be compared to see what can be learned from each other.
As well as looking at information collected from eight European databases, different teams within the project will collect a lot of other information, such as the views of patients to find out about how they prefer to be treated and how they feel about the care they receive. We will also ask for the opinions of the dental professionals and insurers.
The study is divided into six main tasks, also called ‘work packages’. The overall study lead is Professor Helen Whelton, who is based at the University of Leeds. She and her team are the study managers and will make sure that the project stays on track and does what they said they would. Then Professor Gail Douglas is leading another team at Leeds to look at the both the past and present of oral healthcare in the different countries. Another team, led by Professor Stefan Listl in Heidelberg (Germany) will work on analysing all the data that is currently being collected from eight European countries and will interpret what this means. Another team, led by a commercial company called Aridhia Informatics (Scotland) will ensure all the data is kept safe and anonymous first of all. They will then develop programmes to enable the project team to know which types of activities are the most important to focus on. They will also develop a patient ‘app’ to help patients be more involved in their own care. The fifth team, led by Professor Geert van der Heijden in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) will run some studies to test out how workable the planned changes are in reality. This means that they will involve dental professionals and real patients testing out various processes and procedures. The sixth team is led by Professor Ken Eaton in England (Leeds) who is responsible for making sure that information about the study’s progress and results gets to the right people through a website, the press and other media. His team will also find ways to make sure that the results of the project are put to the best possible use so that patients and practitioners get the benefit and dental care becomes more effective and less costly in Europe.