Talks of ‘flattening the curve’ have occurred in almost every household now thanks to the COVID pandemic but prior to this, the last time healthcare data was even close to being discussed at the dinner table was when criticism emerged over MyHealthRecord, writes Dr Peter Cronin.
Thankfully, Australia appears to be over the worst of COVID-19’s primary impact but the emergence of the second and third wave impacts are still hitting the nation hard. For example, there are now huge concerns around the delays in elective surgery, the 60 per cent reduction in patients presenting for routine pathology tests and the 30 per cent reduction in GP consultations. These trends need correcting rapidly and data analytics will have a huge role to play in monitoring these trends.
The short and long term collateral damage to other health conditions could be the real tragedy of this virus and so our nation’s healthcare system needs to plan accordingly. And, now that the general public understands why it is that we need healthcare data, this is going to have a huge impact on how future policy making will improve our health.
Faith in the government
Our nation has put its faith into both the government and healthcare data – largely through data analytics modelling by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Prime Minister. People have been tuning into this crash course in health data modelling in droves with breaking news bulletins surging up 30 per cent. The CMO has done a sterling job in explaining how crucial it is for data to inform sensible policy making and highlighting the hugely positive impact it can have on our health outcomes.
The government is now even propping up initiatives such as its latest ‘Innovation Challenge’ which demonstrates how innovation in data and healthcare analytics can shape Australia’s digital healthcare systems for the better. Not just in national health emergencies but beyond this too.
How healthcare data is being used
Trust in healthcare data is at an all time high – the uptake in those downloading the government’s COVIDSafe app is proof of this. Around two and half million people downloaded the app in just two days and now close to 6 million people have it downloaded on their phones.
Australia is a leading innovation nation and we have the added benefit of real time data. The capabilities we are demonstrating have expedited our reputation globally as leaders in AI and machine learning, even beyond the current COVID-19 challenge. We need to keep building on this proven expertise in healthcare data analytics to provide real world insights into cures and treatments for chronic conditions and even longer term mental health conditions.
Close collaboration with the government is therefore vital in obtaining the ingredients we need to then tap into innovative technologies, such as AI and machine learning, to model our regular medication needs, tackle COVID-19 and provide the best possible healthcare outcomes for our nation.
Case study of work in practice
Data analytics platforms have previously been crucial in therapy development in immuno-oncology, HIV and hepatitis. If we shine a light onto the Hepatitis C example, data analytics companies have been pivotal in working alongside researchers across Australia to better understand patient journeys for treatments.
As a result of insights derived from utilising real-world data and insights, researchers have been able to show a marked improvement in patient outcomes as a result of a change in treatment pathways. This has hugely assisted in eradicating the disease in Australia. We can now replicate this success across a number of other diseases, if we have reliable, in-depth and timely data.
Policy making going forwards
Now consumers feel more informed through the sharing of the government’s health data amidst the COVID-19 crisis, they will expect the same level of transparency going forwards.
Australia has a strategic advantage to pave the way when it comes to the implementation of data and technology within the healthcare industry — it’s a ‘lucky country’ because of its universal health system. Through the government’s long term investment in Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, we’re able to collect real patient experiences with medication and treatments in large numbers. We now need to use this data and analyse it for the good of the public.
Ultimately, data analytics companies need the government to be more transparent with sharing their large data sets so that they can effectively predict and plan for the best possible future healthcare outcomes. This will increase consumer trust and literacy further and will allow data analysis to guide policy making based on predictive modelling rather than guesswork.
Aussie sentiment has undoubtedly changed – they feel educated and informed and this attitude will now fuel the way future healthcare decisions are made. Data analytics companies now more than ever need access to much deeper healthcare data to help best prepare our country for any future pandemics and to assist with everyday healthcare decision making.
*Dr Peter Cronin is the co-founder and head of partnerships and data at Prospection
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