A platform for the health of pigs

How healthy are Swiss pigs? The “Pig Health Info System” (PHIS) application has been providing information on this since 1 May. It enables data-supported monitoring at a national level and raises the health care of Swiss pigs to a new level. The PHIS app was developed by researchers at the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern and the Department of Engineering and Information Technology at BFH. Veterinarians can use it to record all herd examinations in a structured manner. An overview of the aims, implementation and use of the app

Until recently, veterinarians recorded their examination findings inconsistently and often with little structure. The data was neither suitable nor available for national health monitoring. However, many years ago, management guru Peter Drucker already recognised the importance of a sound data basis and is quoted as saying

“You can only improve what you can measure.”

The “Pig Health Info System”, or PHIS for short, pursues three main objectives in order to enable efficient nationwide monitoring of the current health status of pigs

  1. Simplifying data collection with the help of the PHIS app so that veterinarians* can once again focus more on actual herd management while still being able to fulfil their documentation obligations.
  2. A significant improvement in data quality through standardised and structured data collection. It is important to ensure that all recorded data is securely stored in the system and protected against access by unauthorised third parties. This is particularly important to livestock farmers and their associations. At the same time, digital gaps can be eliminated, for example by integrating laboratories into the PHIS and reducing the effort required for data transfers.
  3. The availability of data for timely analyses in order to identify any changes in national animal health as early as possible. This is so that appropriate measures can be taken promptly if necessary.

In summary, the PHIS aims to take healthcare in Swiss pig production to the next level by enabling data-based herd management

Applications for veterinarians

The Pig Health Info System (PHIS) currently consists of four different applications that are tailored to the needs of veterinary practices, veterinarians, laboratories and laboratory staff. The mobile application (app), which is available in both Android and iOS versions, enables veterinarians to document their examinations in great detail using various forms. Images and videos can also be recorded for additional illustration. The three other applications make it possible to record the results of laboratory tests or manage the master data of veterinary practices, laboratories and their customers. On the one hand, a certain amount of data is exchanged between the various applications, for example when a vet orders an examination from a laboratory; on the other hand, the vets can send the files created using the applications directly from the application to external parties (e.g. animal owners) by e-mail if required. This data transfer is entirely the responsibility of the recording veterinarian. In addition, only aggregated and/or anonymised data and analysis results from the PHIS are published or passed on in order to inform the public about the current health situation of the Swiss pig population or to answer specific research questions. Data protection is guaranteed at all times. Conclusions about individual animal populations or persons are excluded

The app is available to all veterinarians in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. Use is generally voluntary. However, when participating in the two programmes offered by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) to promote post-mortem diagnostics, “PathoPig” and “ZoE-BTA”, data must be recorded via the PHIS app

The next steps

One hundred days after the launch of the PHIS app on 1 May 2023, over 30 veterinary practices were already using the app. At this point, over 430 reports had already been created using the PHIS app as part of 128 herd examinations

Based on the positive experience, the Vetsuisse Faculty and Bern University of Applied Sciences are continuing the partnership and expanding the application to other livestock species, initially to cattle. An important aspect of this is synergy effects, including cost savings and a standardised appearance. The “Cattle Health Info System” (CHIS) is currently still under development. The first test phase, during which this extension will be used under real conditions in the field by some pilot veterinarians, will begin in 2023. Future developments will include an offline mode for remote livestock outside mobile phone coverage and support for multilingualism. The actual rollout is planned for 2024.

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AUTHOR: Claudia Egle

Dr. med. vet. Claudia Egle is a veterinarian and the PHIS project manager at the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern.

AUTHOR: Ulrich Fiedler

Prof. Dr Ulrich Fiedler is Professor of Mobile Computing at the School of Engineering and Computer Scienceat Bern University of Applied Sciences.

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