UNSW investigates big data in health as AIHI moves across town

The University of NSW is set to open a new health research centre concentrating on big data as three of its most well-respected research groups prepare to depart for Macquarie University.

UNSW has lured epidemiologist Louisa Jorm from the University of Western Sydney to head its new Centre for Big Data in Health, which will investigate using large-scale and linked health data and translate it into better disease prevention and patient care, as well as more effective health care spending.

The Centre for Big Data in Health will concentrate on linking, scrutinising and mining the vast banks of data held by modern healthcare systems, including biological data, clinical records and information about environmental risks and lifestyle.

It will initially focus on Professor Jorm and her team's current areas of expertise, including maternal and child health, chronic disease and multi-morbidity, Aboriginal health, substance use, drug safety, communicable disease and injury.

Professor Jorm helped to establish the 45 and Up Study of healthy ageing at the Sax Institute, located at the University of Technology, Sydney campus, which is currently following more than 250,000 residents of NSW, linking demographic and lifestyle information to health records.

“We have so much valuable health information in data banks that can now be cross referenced to reveal the best and safest ways to deal with major diseases and health issues and to uncover risks and causes of disease we are not yet aware of,” Professor Jorm said.

UNSW announced in July that three research centres within the Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI) were moving to Macquarie, including the Centre for Clinical Governance Research, led by Jeffrey Braithwaite; the Centre for Health Informatics, led by Enrico Coiera; and the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, led by Johanna Westbrook.

Together, the AIHI represents Australia's largest research group looking at health informatics, the evaluation of technology on patient care and healthcare delivery, and translating research into clinical care and safety.

About 100 staff and students will make the move to Macquarie, which hosts the Australian School of Advanced Medicine (ASAM) and this year opened a new Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The university also owns and operates the private Macquarie University Hospital, which opened in 2010 and is fully digitised.

In a joint statement, professors Braithwaite, Coiera and Westbrook said Macquarie University was emerging as a major force in integrated clinical care, medical and health research and education in Australia.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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