GCI backs bid to unlock digital storehouse potential

26 March 2021

The University of Queensland is working to develop a digital Learning Health System that will ensure data gathered during routine clinical care can be re-purposed for quality improvement and research.

A tsunami of digital information generated at the frontline of clinical care has encouraged clinicians and researchers to explore new ways of processing health data in the face of an ageing population, and the growing burden of chronic disease.

Global Change Institute (GCI) Director Professor Rachel Parker said UQ had created a new digital health network, underpinned by capabilities across a range of UQ disciplines, alongside external stakeholders to develop a wholistic approach to a pressing research challenge.

“A cornerstone of the new network will be UQ’s Centre for Health Services Research (CHSR), which is already closely associated with the development of clinical informatics,” Professor Parker said.

“With the involvement of more than 30 researchers and clinician-researchers across the University, the network is providing unique capability across health data information and utilisation, digital health education, policy, health systems improvement and virtual, remote and technology enabled health at UQ.

“The network is a direct response to the challenge of transformation in Australian healthcare that’s seen us expand from two digital hospitals in 2015 to more than 150 today with complete or partial electronic medical records.”

UQ’s Centre for Health Services Research, Associate Professor Clair Sullivan said there was a growing digital record that contained petabytes of atomised data, detailing the physical characteristics and treatments (down to pulse rates, blood pressures and individual drug doses) of millions of Queenslanders.

“This information has the potential to be utilised in real-time, and decision support provided back to clinicians and system managers in real-time.

“It is the perfect substrate for pragmatic trial design, artificial intelligence and system transformation.

“The data is linked state-wide and curated data sets already exist, positioning Queensland ahead of other jurisdictions with fragmented records.

“No real-time learning is possible in traditional paper-based health systems,” she said.

GCI Innovation Broker Dr Laura G. Carrascosa, who coordinates the new digital health network, said there had been little research or capability to guide the development process, which was remarkable given the potential benefits to patients and the huge cost of healthcare overall.

“Our aim is to help create the much-needed framework for these digital records to be recorded, shared across the entire healthcare spectrum, and used in real-time.

Without this framework, electronic medical records become mere ‘digital filing cabinets’ with little or no capacity to improve patient care,” Dr Carrascosa said.

The network enjoyed its first workshop at Herston on 12 March and has secured partnerships with Qld Health, Metro North, eHealth, Australian e-Health Research Centre, and the global medical company Stryker, who were all represented at the workshop.

Media: Dr Laura G. Carrascosa, lgcarrascosa@uq.edu.au, +61 417692640 / +61 406432371. GCI Communications: gcicomms@uq.edu.au +61 438 285 283