This month we profile DHIN member Dr Shima Ghassem Pour. Shima is Lead Data Scientist in the Research in Implementation Science and eHealth Group (RISe) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.
Can you please tell us about a day in your life?
A working day for me starts at 6:00am. I check my emails, review my to do list and off to work. I spend three days at Westmead Hospital and two days at The Sydney University and I use my commute time to practice my Spanish.
My daily tasks revolve around data (which is no surprise given my position); understanding business problems and providing viable solutions using internal/external available data. I spend a lot of time cleaning data , analysing data and delivering insights using advanced interactive data visualisations. Furthermore, I provide professional training in topics related to data science for the Westmead Business Analytics Services’s staff.
Most analysis requires a very good understanding of sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence methods. Thus, I usually spend part of my day reading industry-related blogs, papers and discussion boards. I also dedicate some time during each week to apply for grants, write and review papers and present at local/international conferences.
How do you define digital health?
Digital health is a simple concept with diverse and complicated aims: precision medicine, disease prevention, chronic conditions management, healthcare utilisation and cost reduction. I think in brief, it is simply about using digital transformation, through disruptive technologies and cultural change, in the healthcare sector. It can cover everything from wearable gadgets to ingestible sensors, from mobile health apps to artificial intelligence and from robotic carers to electronic records.
By gathering more data on health markers employing these technologies, I am enthusiastic that digital health will help individuals to improve their lifestyles and maintain good health for longer.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
In my opinion, implementing digital health is cross domain teamwork, and I think the era of lonely doctor heroes is about to end. The success of providing effective and efficient care depends on collaboration, empathy and shared decision making. Currently, this transformation is slowed down by strict regulations; reluctance of various healthcare stakeholders to change; and ignoring the value of cultural changes and human factors in an increasingly technological world.
Thus, new approaches must be applied in modern medical education including post-graduate education to teach students required skills that facilitate their job and prepare caregivers for working effectively with new technologies. Furthermore, the role of patients also needs to change from being a passive care receiver to a proactive one by being more aware about their health conditions using new technologies and information available through their life (e.g. daily activity, chronic disease, information at their discharge, etc.).
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
Yes, I think if you find a path with no challenge, it does not lead you anywhere and won’t be fun. One of the challenges working in the health sector is reminding myself not to get excited when the stakeholders say we have all data you need!!! And yes, they have. But in order to get any insight from data, data should be collected in a comprehensive and standard approach. So, among many, the main difficulties are convincing them about this issue; designing a viable data collection approach and educating them to collect consistent quality data.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about?
Institute for health metrics and evaluation (IHME) – http://www.healthdata.org
Project EmpowerMD: Medical conversations to medical intelligence – https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/project/empowermd/
Kaggle – https://www.kaggle.com
KDD – https://www.kdd.org
Connect with Shima:
A very big thank you to Shima for being our September profile!