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Healthcare at the centre of NZ’s largest ICT R&D project

Healthcare at the centre of NZ’s largest ICT R&D project

$37.8 million to be invested over seven years in the new area of precision medicine.

At the launch of the The Precision Driven Health research programme

At the launch of the The Precision Driven Health research programme

Knowledge-driven healthcare supports our clinicians to make sound clinical decisions at the frontline of our hospitals and communities

Dr Dale Bramley, Waitemata District Health Board

This is a mission led research, declares Minister of Science and Innovation Steven Joyce during the launch of Precision Driven Health.

Precision Driven Health is one of the largest data science research initiatives to be undertaken in the country, and aims to position New Zealand at the forefront of precision health globally.

The project was founded by Orion Health, University of Auckland, Waitemata District Health Board, with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to provide world-leading research into the emerging area of precision medicine.

Precision medicine involves applying new data science techniques to understand the massive volume of data about an individual that it being captured by health information systems, consumer devices, social networks, genetic testing and other sources.

This is New Zealand’s largest ever ICT research and development project, says Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae, during the launch at the University of Auckland.

This significant investment, he notes, is going into ICT, which is the country’s third largest export and predicted to be the largest export in the future.

It is intended that a combined $37.8 million will be invested in the programme over seven years.

Professor Jim Metson, vice chancellor of research at the University of Auckland, says the project signifies a move towards health informatics becoming an increasing part of routine healthcare and outcome for patients.

Professor Jim Metson, vice chancellor of research at the University of Auckland
Professor Jim Metson, vice chancellor of research at the University of Auckland

Waitemata DHB Chief Executive Dr Dale Bramley says the joint initiative with Orion Health and the University of Auckland promotes a better understanding of its patient population and will result in an improved suite of decision-support tools for healthcare professionals.

Waitemata DHB Chief Executive Dr Dale Bramley
Waitemata DHB Chief Executive Dr Dale Bramley

“Knowledge-driven healthcare supports our clinicians to make sound clinical decisions at the frontline of our hospitals and communities," says Bramley. "It enables streamlined, personalised care and ultimately results in better care plans, outcomes and experiences for our patients."

A tsunami of data

McCrae notes how healthcare workers will face an exponential increase in the amount of patient information needed for effective treatment.

This will require the require the application of sophisticated ‘big data’ techniques such as machine learning to process, analyse and surface information that will assist in creating more personalised healthcare plans.

“The electronic health record is fast becoming the most powerful tool in the medical toolkit. Today it contains a patient’s medical record, soon it will include genetic, environmental and social data and will be critical in the application of precision medicine or personalised healthcare,” says McCrae.

“For all this information to be accessible it will need to be stored in the cloud because the size of the electronic file for each individual will be so large,” says McCrae, citing findings in Orion Health’s Introduction to Machine Learning in Healthcare report.

He says some estimates suggest the average electronic health record could include as much as six terabytes of data. “That’s a quarter of the whole of Wikipedia (24 terabytes)!”

McCrae says healthcare workers will be unable to process all this new information in a timely way and will rely on high-powered computing, using insights from machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to find hidden insights without being programmed.

“Algorithms will interrogate vast data sets and present recommended treatment plans tailored to individuals,” says McCrae.“This is a new revolution in healthcare.”

“Essential to the application of machine learning are intelligent algorithms and rich data sets,” says McCrae.

He says Orion Health is at the forefront of developing both areas.

Apart from its investment in the Precision Driven Health Initiative, he points out Orion Health software manages over 100 million patient records globally.

Orion Health is “one of the few health software companies in the world capable of carrying out machine learning analysis at scale”, he states.

'Essential to the application of machine learning are intelligent algorithms and rich data sets': Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae
'Essential to the application of machine learning are intelligent algorithms and rich data sets': Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae

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