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Precision health is much more than personalised medicine. It is prior conditions, family history, genetic factors, social circumstances, activity levels, a raft of factors.

“Name and date are easy, it’s the nuanced information that’s difficult,” says Precision Driven Health (PDH) CEO Dr Kevin Ross.

When this nuanced data is pulled together into one system, healthcare professionals will truly be able to deliver personalised healthcare. Ross sees PDH at the front of that change.

PDH applies new data science techniques to understand the massive volume of data being captured by health information systems, consumer devices, social networks, genetic testing and other sources. Its partners are as diverse as Orion Health, Cure Kids, Mole Map, Te Whānau o Waipareira, the University of Auckland and Waitematā District Health Board.

“We’ve spent the last five years building collaborations between our clinical, data science and technology partners, and we’re developing some cool new tools. For example, a lot of patient notes are handwritten, typed and put into PDF format – but there’s no structure so details can be missed. We can make that PDF searchable in a new way, pulling out unique information about a person, or identifying people who might be eligible for a health trial.

“Our partner MoleMap is working with us on decision-support tools to enable GPs to use their image processing capability as part of the patient-referral process. We’re working with Te Whānau o Waipareira in west Auckland on utilising their data to help identify the most valuable services for each whānau.”

Countless organisations collect data about people, but Ross says they need help to understand the nature of that data and how it can help in decision-making. He describes it as asking one critical question: What’s the most valuable thing I could know?

Ross also talks about the differences between national and community-level data, saying the opportunity to use local data at a local level, within a community, will help improve both tools and patient outcomes. He cites the new Māori Health Authority with its focus on health equity, and the opportunity to support this through better technology at the local level.

He believes the success of New Zealand’s health reforms will depend heavily on how well we leverage digital technology, data and data science. “We have huge untapped potential to improve the quality and efficiency of our system which currently produces inequitable outcomes, and is inefficient, vulnerable and paternalistic. And still battling COVID-19, it also relies on a tired workforce.

“We can’t build personalised healthcare and achieve population-level improvement with siloed, poor-quality data. Equally, we can’t do it with the one-size-fits-all giant health IT system. The temptation in health is to adopt a single system that finally solves all the problems of the past, but any system of that magnitude will be out of date before it goes live. If properly resourced, the vision of Hira is much more likely to produce the results we are after, and the recent NZHIT report highlighting innovation at the core is essential to our success.”

Where to from here?

In July 2021, PDH announced a new partnership with Vensa Health, NZ Telehealth Leadership Group (NZTLG), Intrahealth Canada Limited, Medtech Global and Massey University to create telehealth solutions for underserved populations to ensure better health outcomes for all New Zealanders.

Ross says they’re looking at the next generation of tools he believes might fit in with the health reforms and the Health Resource Council’s goal of more translational work. He’s confident the benefits will keep coming as long as the conversations keep going.


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