Access to data crucial in the journey towards precision medicine

To leverage big data for precision medicine, access to the right data is fundamental.

 Ian McCrae, CEO Orion Health


Last week the world of health tech came together at HIMSS, the largest annual gathering of health and med-tech organisations and experts. The conversations on the floor were all about the latest advancements and discoveries in the health space and the traction we were starting to see in the power of AI and machine learning to help health care organisations operate more efficiently and ultimately deliver better care.  

Last year, anyone that talked about blockchain was perceived as breaking new ground and super innovative, but not so much this year. I’ve always been a self-confessed doubter of blockchain, as many people know. 

Recently, Graeme Grieve, the father of FHIR, delivered a presentation which simplified things somewhat. For those who are considering using blockchain in health, he presented the following decision tree:

So, moving on from blockchain, the topic of transformation at HIMSS this year was precision medicine and the use of machine learning and AI to make sense of health data.  

Aggregating data and surfacing the right information at the right time, to the right people remains a crucial step for health systems around the world in order to prepare for the journey to precision health.


The volume and variety of health data being collected is rapidly increasing, and the opportunity for this data to improve the health of both individuals and populations is too big to miss.  

The last decade has seen health care organisations realise the potential of data analytics, and the importance of having high quality data to work with. Data platforms offer advanced capability in the rapid collection and storage of data, as well as being able to integrate with a variety of systems. Once all of this data is captured and brought together in one place, it must be organised so that it can be extracted and presented in a way that is meaningful to clinicians and patients. Easy in principle, difficult in practice.  

The gradual shift to the cloud has impacted healthcare organisations’ ability to store and manage data - in a good way.Cloud providers allow organisations to manage large volumes of data from multiple sources, leverage the flexibility and scalability of the cloud and take advantage of machine learning models. Working with AWS to migrate some of our largest customers to the cloud in the last year has shown us first-hand the immediate impact the cloud has on a healthcare organisation. 

Aggregating huge volumes of data from multiple sources and surfacing it in a complete longitudinal patient record provides the foundation for precision medicine. When data is organised and accessible, clinicians can have a much clearer picture of a patient’s health.Integrating this information with the right applications and tools enables healthcare to be coordinated across providers and the community, resulting in more effective management of a patient’s health. 

The South Island is a great example of how health care organisations can leverage data to create a more connected, patient-centred system. All South Islanders now have electronic health records that can be viewed by clinicians anywhere across the region, ensuring that those responsible for providing care have easy access to the right information at the right time, to inform that care. The combination of innovative technology solutions brings data together, allowing clinicians to make faster, safer and more informed decisions. Whether they are delivering care in a hospital or across a number of community providers, including emergency services and pharmacies,they have timely access to all information in a patient’s record at the point of care.  

Beyond connecting systems to ensure timely access to information, extracting meaningful insights from the data is the path to transforming the way healthcare is delivered. Once the data is securely stored and managed in a data platform, healthcare providers have the opportunity to draw upon this information to gain insights and make predictions that could improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care for patients.  

Only when the data is aggregated, organised and accessible, can we start to apply machine learning models to the data. Machine scan process and analyse data at a rate that far surpasses human capability.With the help of machine learning, clinicians will be able to identify patterns across populations, enabling them to proactively identify and manage at-risk patients in a timely manner, potentially saving them from ending up in hospital when it’s too late.   

Managing the increasingly vast volume of health data and surfacing it to the people who need it the most in a way that is meaningful to them, brings us a step closer to realising the power of precision medicine.

Posted on behalf of eHealthNews -guest column NZHIT Member  Ian McCrae, CEO Orion Health



Posted by

Anna Arrol

Administration Assistant

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