This month we talk to DHIN member and Data Scientist at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Jane Shrapnel.
Can you please tell us about a day in your life?
I have just started using this new app which tells me my energy levels, stress levels and performance. It reads your heart rate and variability from your fingertip against the camera and measures how it will contribute to your performance that day. It also gives you tips on what you can do to increase your productivity. So, the first thing I do every morning is check the app. So far, it’s been telling me I should have a lot more energy than I do so the algorithm might need some tweaking! Then I exercise and have a proper balanced breakfast before making my way to Westmead or Randwick each day. I work as a Data Scientist at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, which means I work across both hospitals.
Analytics capabilities are just beginning to be fully utilised in health so my job currently involves embedding the analytical foundations to ensure a culture of data driven decision-making can flourish. We have partnered with the University of Sydney researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health and the Centre for Translational Data Science to help make it happen. This partnership has already seen great developments in enabling access to patient records through text analytics and development of clinical decision rules for specific diagnosis. I am looking forward to working closely together in the future to see what else we can achieve.
I have only been working in health for just under a year but I have always had an interest in this area, completing my Masters in Applied Statistics coursework project on the longitudinal analysis of the under-5 mortality rate in Africa. It is such an exciting time to be in this industry as the digital health journey is only just beginning and there is considerable long-term growth in the area. It is interesting and evolving work with so much potential for change.
I have worked across many different industries in the data science space from banking to federal government and consulting across mining, finance and manufacturing. Some challenges I am seeing in health are similar to other industries and we can learn a lot from what they have already achieved. For instance, utilising workforce and demand forecasting to make sure the right people are scheduled to work at the right time with the right skills to meet demand. Another example is using supply chain efficiency models to optimise medications ordering.
Some challenges are unique to health care. There is so much we still don’t understand about the human body and causes of different diseases and this is where the interesting and fulfilling problems to solve are.
How do you define digital health?
Technologically enabled health care that empowers quality improvement in patient care. It depends on where you are as an organisation in your digital health journey to what that might mean for you. For instance, a small regional hospital that has just installed an x-ray machine would see great benefits for patients not having to travel long distances for a simple x-ray. Whereas a larger metropolitan hospital would be moving towards embedding clinical decision tools within their workflows to help medical staff diagnosis and treat patients quicker.
We still have a long way to go in digital health and utilising existing technological advancements. Other industries are tapping into internet of things and using sensors, drones and wearables. This will be the future of digital health.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed?
Initially, when setting up a digital health project, the project should comprise a multi-disciplinary team from different backgrounds. For instance, an advanced analytics digital health project requires medical staff, researchers, data scientist, engineers and translators, patient advocates and executives. The benefits to having a diverse team are, firstly, having broad experiences and backgrounds in a group facilitates better problem solving outcomes, and secondly, ensures we are designing a solution that is going to have the greatest impact.
The subsequent key enabler is having a change management strategy. We have all the skills and resources to succeed but we need the implementation strategy to be incorporated into these digital health projects.
The key levers to enable successful implementation are:
- Employees seeing the benefits of it and making it part of their everyday practice. Having the compelling change story, particularly when modelled by peers and senior staff, and reinforcing mechanisms to change are the catalyst to changing behaviour.
- Having executives supporting the changes through resources, modelling behaviour and reinforcing the benefits of change.
- Having the right systems in place to support the change to digital health. Proper training and processes to incorporate technology and workflow changes in digital health, helps employees and consumers feel supported and empowered in their digital health journey.
Ideally, this should be planned and executed at the start of any new project and not as an afterthought at the end of project. From experience, there is nothing worse than spending weeks or months developing a powerful predictive model and then not having it implemented because the stakeholder wasn’t brought along on the journey.
Have you come across any surprises or challenges along the way?
That fax machines and pagers still exist! More seriously though, one of the big surprises has been the willingness for everyone to be open, transparent and share their knowledge to reach the best outcomes in each project. Which ultimately will lead to the best health outcome for patients and at the end of the day that is why we do the work we do.
Connect with Jane: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janeshrapnel/
Thank you very much Jane Shrapnel for being our May newsletter feature!