Health informatics — more than just data

By Jacqui Jones
Thursday, 29 August, 2019

Health informatics — more than just data

Digital platforms provide the healthcare industry with great opportunities to empower the patient.

Health informatics is about more than just data — it’s an opportunity to empower the patient.

That’s the view of industry specialist Alexandra Ehrlich, who says health care would do well to follow the lead of the retail and banking sectors when it comes to embracing digital platforms.

Australia was already taking a step in the right direction with the national digital health My Health Record system, she said.

US-based Ehrlich, a biostatistician and a Principal Solution Consultant with Oracle Health Sciences, visited Australia for the recent digital health, e-health and health informatics conference HIC 2019.

She was a finalist in the Health Informatics Society of Australia’s (HISA) digital health awards.

Her nomination in the ‘Don Walker award – Industry’ category recognised her work in data management, CX (customer experience) solutions and artificial intelligence supporting patient experience, as well as a White House AI (artificial intelligence) challenge on clinical trial matching.

At HIC 2019, Ehrlich was a guest speaker and panellist in a workshop on ‘Personalising precision medicine: Bringing the consumer perspective to precision medicine’.

Ehrlich’s presentation discussed the challenges and opportunities technology addresses in capturing pivotal health, environmental and socioeconomic data for patients.

“It’s really about decision support,” she said after the conference.

“Providers, what they want technology to do is help them get the right information at the right time.

“And often information has been implemented just to collect data.

“Keeping the providers in mind really allows us to keep in mind what they find valuable when doing that job.

“It’s really being able to use that as a tool.

“In precision medicine especially there’s a lot of information that comes from a lot of different places that’s hard to make sense of.”

Being able to integrate that into a platform that was easy to interact with was key, Ehrlich said.

A topic of concern, highlighted at HIC 2019, among healthcare professionals was how the industry was leveraging innovative technologies.

“I don’t think clinicians are concerned they’re going to be replaced but they’re going to be overridden,” Ehrlich said.

“We talked about, at the precision medicine seminar, we had a really good discussion about how to utilise AI today.

“One of the best cases we found connected that to the White House and the project we had around resource allocation.

“Using AI to get patients to the right resources.

“It was decision making, it wasn’t diagnosing.”

Ehrlich said a large part of this was focusing on the patient or consumer view, and considering what information they needed to make healthcare decisions.

“When a patient is sick or my child is sick, I’m trying to decide where to take them. Do I want to take them to the emergency room, do I want to take them to a GP?” she said.

“That data is there, that information is there.

“It’s really the consumer experience part.

“We do this with retail, we do this with banking.”

Ehrlich said the kinds of digital tools employed in the retail and banking sectors were a nice fit for health care.

“At Oracle, we’re lucky we have a large portfolio across industries, we’re able to use our best parts from other industries and bring them in in a thoughtful way,” she said.

“That’s part of my goal being here [in Australia] was to connect with what’s going on in the healthcare field here.”

Looking at My Health Record — how the project has been received and the next steps now that implementation is well underway — was a part of that work.

Ehrlich said a big focus was on how to maximise the technological investment for the benefit of the patient.

“I think what was really interesting to me was the different levels of conversations that are happening here around how to empower the patient.

“Because the way the system is set up and through a project like My Health Record, there’s such an opportunity to empower the patient and connect to their health care.

“But in the US, because of the way we’re set up, we’re not quite there yet.”

Ehrlich said a staged implementation of My Health Record was the right approach.

“I think the logical next step … [is] to discuss the level of detail we want in the record.

“That has to be driven by what we find beneficial for the patients.

“I think there’s going to be a period of let’s experience this and see what works and what doesn’t.

“From there I think the next step will be what new data needs to be in there in order to impact care.

“I think it’s really about remaining patient-centric and really creating a process that keeps them front and centre.

“I think we all acknowledge that.

“But because of the way we’ve been operating for a long time, especially with technology, we haven’t really created a standard methodology to do that.

“I think that’s where the opportunity is to stop, take a deep breath and say, in order for this investment to be really beneficial and in order to be cognisant, we have to say the patient is really front and centre.”

Oracle Health Sciences Principal Solution Consultant and biostatistician Alexandra Ehrlich.

Top image credit: ©

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