The future of healthcare is now 

As the healthcare industry looks to shape its future with data analytics, artificial intelligence and precision medicine, our sector specialist Liz Jones, shares her insights from the 2019 Health Data Analytics conference.

This year’s event brought together a melting-pot of data professionals, healthcare practitioners and administrators, technology vendors, students, lawyers and AI-experts — all with a passion for enhancing the delivery of healthcare in Australia through technology and data.

Over two days it showcased the healthcare benefits being generated through the use of data analytics, digital technology and AI. We discussed the challenges currently faced and our aspirations for the future to embed these new techniques whilst protecting patients and society from potential risks.

In the past 10 years we have witnessed digital health grow from a largely aspirational, niche market, to a booming billion-dollar global industry. With its advance has emerged real benefits for healthcare delivery, making it an exciting time to be working in the healthcare sector.

From enhanced disease prediction, to more informed clinical decision-making in mental healthcare, through to smart monitoring in intensive care, it’s clear that innovations in machine learning, AI, data analytics and electronic medical records will continue to enable improved health services. The volume of healthcare data being collected is also growing exponentially, bringing exciting possibilities for the analysis and use of large data sets for population health insights.

There were many lessons shared during the conference, but I’ll single out just three that are prominent and critical to get right:

  1. Firstly, the reminder that enhanced data analytics, AI, and precision medicine relies on good quality, trusted data being available in the system. Transformation of healthcare delivery relies on a solid foundation of good data governance and practices to maintain high quality data for insight and use.
  2. Secondly, the importance of continuing to engage directly with the patient. Evidence from the US indicates that the use of electronic medical records in hospitals has actually reduced the patient experience with healthcare staff ‘buried’ in smart devices and digital screens. While this technology is new and unfamiliar, healthcare providers must remain cognisant of the influence new technologies can have on staff behaviour and patient interactions.
  3. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, maintaining the trust of patients and the communitywill be critical to the continued growth of AI technology and application of health data for good.

The collection, sharing, analysis and use of digital data and information requires strong information privacy and security practices and calls for organisations to embed ethical principles into their decision-making.

Whether avoiding bias in the development of machine learning algorithms, ensuring the appropriate sharing of personal data, or consolidating and analysing datasets for population health benefits, the opportunity to use data for good needs to be balanced against the risk of misuse.

If we lose the community’s trust, we risk losing everything we have worked so hard to achieve.

Liz Jones Associate Director