DHCRC June Virtual Participant Forum Event Report | June 2020
Update provided by: Dr Anna Janssen
This month the Digital Health CRC hosted its first participant forum. Appropriately for an organisation focused on digital solutions to health problems, the forum was a virtual event with participants logging in throughout the day to engage with presenters and fellow attendees. Michael Walsh, the Chair of the Digital Health CRC Board opened the event by acknowledging the considerable progress the centre had made in the two years since it was launched. The centre currently has $30,531782 worth of projects in the project pipeline, which combined involve 65 participants. These projects are supporting the Digital Health CRCs overarching mission to transform the health sector.
“Our mission continues to ensure that we empower consumers and that we understand and support the health sector to manage risks for individuals and communities. We have responded to the current pandemic crisis with covert 19 and tried to support our communities and our partners and participants to generate Innovative ideas to be able to deal with this crisis, both at an individual level, but also at a population level and also to enhance.” – Michael Walsh, Chair of Digital Health CRC Board
The event provided Digital Health CRC partners an update on the centre’s key achievements in the last two years, as well as showcasing an array of up and coming projects. Researchers from the University of Sydney were prominently featured on the events program. One of the exciting University of Sydney projects showcased was The Pandemic Imperative, co-presented by Professor Tom Snelling. The presentation provided a high-level overview of the project, which is extracting EMR data on COVID-19 patients in near real time to improve outcomes by improving point of care decision making. The Pandemic Imperative project is also hoping to improve research related to COVID-19 by using a Bayesian approach to create knowledge from the data that can be updated over time as it is accumulating. A highlight of the presentation was how it showcased the industry and academic collaborations fostered through the Digital Health CRC, as the project is a collaboration between multiple partners including The University of Sydney, Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland Health, Ministry of Health NSW and Western Australia’s Department of Health.
The participant forum also featured the work of emerging and early career researchers who are embedded in Digital Health CRC projects. Dr Liliana Laranjo from the University of Sydney presented on a project happening at Westmead Hospital exploring how interactive voice response calls, text messaging and email interactions can be used to modify the behaviour of patients with atrial fibrillation, which is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. I was also given an opportunity to present on research happening in an area called practice analytics, which is the study of how varied health data sets can be integrated to inform practice reflection by health professionals.
The day closed out with a panel discussion featuring the Digital Health CRC’s academic leaders. The panel discussion was chaired by Professor Tim Shaw. Panellists included Digital Health CRC Co-Chief Scientist, Professor Barry Drake, and the centre’s Flagship Education and Research Directors (FREDs): Professor James Boyd (Enabling Information Discovery and Application), Professor Rachel Davey (Changing Health Trajectories), Professor Steven McPhail (Intelligent Decision Support), Professor Suzanne Robinson (Rural and Remote). Panellists discussed their key priorities for the Digital Health CRC moving forward. One point that was emphasised by all panellists was the important role of collaboration between diverse partners to enable new models of healthcare with health technology. Rural and Remote FRED Professor Suzanne Robinson poignantly captured this point emphasising the importance of collaboration for identifying best fit solutions to health sector problems.
“We need to work with our partners to think about what we deliver when and what’s appropriate in a very fast often fast paced and changing environment of health.” – Suzanne Robinson, Flagship Research and Education Director (Rural and Remote)
Another point that came through strongly in the panel was the need to engage industry in digital health research. Enabling strong communication occurs between research and industry so both groups understood the culture and approaches of the other remains an important tool for fostering sustainable digital health collaborations. Staying focused on the industry problem and listening to the needs of partners was identified as a key element of the Digital Health CRC by FRED Professor Steven McPhail.
“The starting point is the industry problem. And I think that’s where we need to continue to work is to understand the problem…solving real problems and also doing it in a timely way, in a meaningful way for many partners. I think it’s about timeliness, it’s listening and it’s being practical in how we go about solving the problems.” – Steven McPhail, Flagship Research and Education Director (Intelligent Decision Support)
In addition to running an exciting virtual participant forum in June, the Digital Health CRC also relocated from their office in the Rocks to the University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus. The centre is now based in the University of Sydney’s Knowledge Hub. This move seems likely to lead to exciting collaborations between the Digital Health CRC and the health tech start-ups who innovate at the Knowledge Hub.