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Emerging Tech in Health - better health care through data analysis

“Computers are fast, accurate and stupid while humans are slow, inaccurate and brilliant.” And according to Shayne Hunter, Ministry of Health’s Deputy Director-General of Data and Digital, a combination of the two is a match made in heaven.

TAS Insights and Analytics team members reported back on what they heard at the HiNZ Emerging Tech in Health symposium in Christchurch during Tech Week 2019.

Based on audience feedback, it was clear participants found the examples of evolving health technology to be insightful and thought-provoking, but also disconcerting in part.

There is a strong case for advancements in health technology services as they can help create efficiencies, especially in areas where there is a limited workforce.

Online patient portals in New Zealand are becoming more widespread, enabling patients to take an active role in their healthcare. Patients can review their test results, medication and patient notes and in some cases, even have online video consultations with their doctor, saving them the time of heading along to the hospital or GP rooms. This can free up time for clinicians and enable them to deal with more serious cases.

Participants were told there are limitations to the amount of change the medical profession can cope with though, particularly if expectations for web-based consultations with a doctor grow too fast. The sustainability of health technology initiatives is a key factor to their success.

The marriage between the patterns and insights that can be drawn from leading edge big data and the sensitivity of human decision-making and risk-taking that a clinician makes daily, is where the magic lays.

Robotics offer benefits in fast-tracking decisions based on data. For example, ACC has a system in place to automate the assessment of simple claims. The smart algorithm is based on a statistical model that uses data from previous anonymised claims to determine the probability that a claim will be accepted. Participants heard 85% of simple claims were approved with a high degree of accuracy.

People on the other hand bring their human experience to the practitioner/patient relationship and make complex decisions every day, based on their education and hands-on training in the role.

The symposium concluded with the idea that there is a strong need for governance of shared health related information and data to ensure its integrity and sensitivity.  Regardless of the topic, many of the presenters were implicitly setting out a vision for how employees in the health sector (and their teams) can adapt to change, ensuring their skills remain relevant and their work furthers patient outcomes.

“Our team will use the insights from the symposium to generate ideas and to consider the governance, technical, and sustainability factors relating to these ideas,” said Corinne Gower, TAS Insights and Analytics Senior Analyst (Consultancy).