UNSW big data academics to support govt

Monday, 12 August, 2019

UNSW big data academics to support govt

UNSW health data experts Professor Sallie Pearson and Professor Louisa Jorm will support the government on how big data is managed and shared following their appointments to national committees.

Head of the Medicines Policy Research Unit at UNSW’s Centre for Big Data Research in Health, Prof. Pearson will join the National Data Advisory Council (NDAC), the key advisory body to the National Data Commissioner. NDAC includes experts from government, community, business and research sectors to provide perspectives on data sharing, privacy and confidentiality.

“Data influences our lives in so many ways. We generate data every day in everything we do — we need to leverage that ethically and safely and put it to good use,” Prof. Pearson said.

“NDAC will assist the National Data Commissioner to find the right balance between streamlining the sharing and release of data and ensuring the protection of privacy. Developing new legislation is crucial in making Australia globally competitive in our policies, services and research — currently we are lagging behind other countries,” she said.

Professor Louisa Jorm, Director of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, has been appointed to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) Independent Expert Panel, which will develop a National Health Information Strategy.

Prof. Jorm said a new framework is essential as the number of healthcare big data sources accelerates.

“The rise of My Health Record, expanding hospital health electronic records, an increasing number of apps, social media, Fitbits and crowd-supplying data means significant consideration needs to be given to this complex landscape. In particular, how Australia is going to use this to improve health care and manage risks around privacy and bias or exclusion of certain groups,” said Prof. Jorm.

Prof. Jorm added that the National Health Information Strategy will help provide a framework that can achieve coordinated, integrated and timely collection and development of health data that will meet the information needs of Australia’s health system.

The AIHW panel consists of five members from public, Indigenous, research, clinical and consumer health areas across Australia. Prof. Jorm identified that one of the key objectives of the strategy will be to help hospitals around Australia better manage electronic medical records.

“In Australia, we have universal health care and good and consistent data collection — we need a national strategy that crosses jurisdictional boundaries so data can be connected up. If we don’t do it now — it would be a real opportunity lost. It is crucial for Australia [to] envision its own future for a data-driven ‘learning healthcare system’ rather than this being steered by large multinational tech firms,” Prof. Jorm said.

“Clinical data has not been utilised systemically for analysis or research, we need to use these data both to improve care at the local clinical level and to understand population-level health.”

The first meeting for AIHW’s Independent Expert Panel will be held in late August.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/mast3r

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