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Dimensions of Intelligent Analytics for Smart Digital Health Solutions

Posted on: March 25, 2024

This opinion piece was contributed by the editor of the book "Dimensions of Intelligent Analytics for Smart Digital Health Solutions", Nilmini Wickramasinghe, professor and Optus Chair of Digital Health at La Trobe University.

Brief summary of the book "Dimensions of Intelligent Analytics for Smart Digital Health Solutions"

This book shows how the tools, techniques, technologies, and tactics around analytics and AI can be best leveraged and utilised to realise a healthcare value proposition of better quality, better access and high value for everyone every day, everywhere. The book presents a triumvirate approach including technical, business and medical aspects of data and analytics and by so doing takes a responsible approach to this key area.

  1. What are the current issues faced by the healthcare industry?

The healthcare industry is facing several challenges such as escalating costs, rapid increase in chronic conditions which can be associated with working and lifestyle change owing to latest development in digital technology and infrastructure. In addition, an ageing population and longer life expectancy along with alarming lower birth rates, especially in developed countries, as well as a jaded workforce significant workforce shortages particularly with respect to nurses [1, 2].

Another important challenge faced by the healthcare industry is the disparity in healthcare delivery with respect to access to care, quality of care and equity in care [3, 4]. Due to migration to big cities and metropolitan areas, there is a reluctance from doctors and healthcare workers to move and live in regional and remote areas which in turn creates underprivileged and underserved populations.

A more emergent challenge faced by the healthcare industry is concerned with mental health issues in all populations ranging from early teenagers to older adults  [5, 6]. This mental-health epidemic has been slowly developing and was relatively unnoticed, but the COVID-19 pandemic has served to exacerbate it. Mental health challenges are now more prominent in all ages and all sectors, exposing increased rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide [7]. Mental health services which already have scarce resources are now facing capacity constraints, stigma, and disparities in access. This highlights the need for greater and rapid investment in mental healthcare infrastructure and resources.

The use of modern and easily accessible technologies for acquiring and accessing data is changing healthcare delivery on an unprecedented scale. The new digital transformation with electronic health records (EHRs), telemedicine, wearable devices, and health apps has changed patient interactions with medical practitioners and how we manage our health [8, 9]. Though such innovations have offered opportunities to improve overall patient care and efficiency, yet it also raises concerns regarding data privacy, security breaches, interoperability challenges, and the ethical use of health data. In addition, the volumes of data generated by EMRs and EHRs and a risk of non-compliance has put healthcare providers under enormous pressure [10]. It can be said that the “data” presented as a “gold nugget” has become more like modern day “asbestos”.

  1. How do analytics and AI help to address these challenges?

AI and analytics enable the volumes of data to be turned into pertinent information and germane knowledge. AI and wearable connected IoT devices can help in acquiring and analyzing huge amounts of data (patients’ EHR-electronic Health Records, pathology reports, image results) to predict possible disease or even disease outbreak, choices for treatment and intended outcomes [11]. The analysis of such data can even highlight patients with higher risks or multiple comorbidities. Such useful insightful and real time analysis can help patients, healthcare providers to identify appropriate treatment pathways while at the same time enabling payers (Government and insurance providers) to adjust resources and adjust budgets or allocate more accurate insurance premiums.

Latest innovations in genomics and imaging coupled with AI and analytics, can assist in determining patient specific issues and thereby ensuring more personalized or precise medication and/or treatment plans which match both the needs and preferences of  patients are selected [12, 13]. Moreover, this innovative combination of such techniques can provide better estimates on costing, required resources and time for specific treatment pathways; thus, ensuring a value-based approach. Further, AI and analytic techniques can be designed and developed to support clinical decision making  for the health professionals which assists in addressing workforce shortages and jaded healthcare employees [14, 15].

A key strength of AI and data analytic techniques in healthcare is that they can simultaneously enable precise and personalized care to ensue. This in turn leads to higher quality, higher value care to be delivered to everyone, every time and everywhere [16]. In addition, the use of wearable devices and sensors e.g., smart watches have made it easy to acquire data without undue interruption in daily lifestyles. In addition, IoT in combination with analytics and AI has revolutionized healthcare delivery by enhancing live data and on-the-go diagnosis with medical grade accuracy, personalizing care plans, improving operational efficiency, reducing extra burden required to engage carers. This is also advancing medical research and innovation using these insights for new procedures and drug discovery [17]. These technologies have the potential to transform the healthcare industry from reactive to preventive healthcare, leading to better patient outcomes, reduced costs, and improved access to quality care.

  1. What are the new opportunities and benefits of using these modern technologies?

There are many opportunities and benefits in using modern technologies. Many technologies already existed and now they are extensively being used in the healthcare settings. Due to security and privacy issues, there were many applications of technology which were not employed but with Covid-19 pandemic, things have drastically changed [18]. For example, phone and online meetings were used in many businesses but the healthcare industry did not adopt this approach until very recently when patients were unable to visit or were restricted by their condition to visit clinics. This created and advanced tele-medicine and tele-consultations which was widely and eagerly taken by both health professionals and patients.

In the latest news, the Victorian Premier announced that Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) a pilot study which provided virtual care for 550 Victorians every day for emergency using video consultations will be doubled in its capacity [19].

As mentioned previously, the big data and data analytics can be harnessed not only to check for abnormality but also to detect patterns which can help in detecting hidden or undiagnosed diseases. In addition, such pattern recognition techniques can help in early identification of any pandemic or outbreak of specific diseases in precise areas or sub-group population [10].

Usage of AI-powered information cleaning and preprocessing can lead to quality, consistent, and complete information. Machine learning can recognize and redress information mistakes from data input for improved analytics reducing errors, inconsistencies, or irregularities in the data. Machine learning can also assist in combining healthcare information from different sources and groups forming a comprehensive and inclusive investigation [20, 21].

IoT and inter-connected devices can be used to create alerts for certain groups of patients or people who need urgent attention e.g., elderly patients with comorbidities or children at high risk in intensive care unit or people with physical or mental disabilities [22].

The use of blockchain technology can improve data privacy and security, as well as serve in improving trust and transparency [23]. The usage of algorithms and machine learning along with IoT can be utilized to automate processes and eliminate laborious and repetitive tasks [23].

Robotic surgeries and the use of robots more generally is another opportunity for using technology to upskill and uplift the workforce [24]. There are many healthcare providers in Victoria which are conducting total knee and hip replacement surgeries using robotic systems [25]. In addition, virtual reality is being used for training in surgery, as well as wound and pain management for new doctors. The immersive environment of using AR/VR can also be beneficial to reduce anxiety and other mental health diseases. In short, there are many opportunities and benefits to be realized by leveraging new technologies; including more elaborate example such as digital twins for more precise and personalized care or AI and ML for automation and cleaning of data and blockchain for ensuring a high level of privacy and security.


  1. What are the potential challenges in the adoption of these technologies?

These new technologies have a promising and bright future, yet there are also several barriers and challenges for their adoption.

Data privacy and security is a major concern for different countries and even within countries there exist different departments, institutions and mini silos which vary vastly in their level of data protection and format [10], e.g., HIPAA in the United States, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe or Privacy Act of 1988 in Australia. This gets even more complicated and problematic issues such as interoperability of systems and accuracy or more specifically varying accuracy of data exist. This can be associated with the absence of standard regulations or approaches across the healthcare industry.  Thus, each provider of technology can brings its own version of a recording or data saving system which in most cases does not talk to other provider’s systems.

In addition, there are no standardized rules for ethical regulations for data collection or protection. The cost and resources required to implement modern technologies along with shortage of such expertise and reluctance to change are some of the major barriers for these technologies.

To implement or introduce any new technology into the current healthcare system, it is necessary more often than not to integrate the new technology with an existing older system. Not only is this time consuming but it then also serves to introduce errors, inefficiencies and waste into the processes moving forward.

To address these challenges requires a collaborative approach among all stakeholders e.g., healthcare providers, policymakers, technology leaders, payers and patients, to create all-inclusive approaches and systems. It is important that these solutions are co-designed with health professionals and patients providing input to ensure they are fit for purpose.


  1. Why do you think it's important that healthcare professionals keep up to date with the latest technological developments in the healthcare industry? 

It is very crucial and vital for improved patient care through advancements in diagnostic tools, treatment options, and patient management strategies that healthcare professionals keep themselves updated with the latest training and access to knowledge base. These new technologies can streamline workflow and reduce manual tasks, improve communication, and reduce errors. In addition, these technological improvements can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. Technology can be used to automate processes and free up precious clinician time to spend in actual taking care of patients rather than doing clerical/administrative work. This will increase patient workflow, enhance efficiency, reduce overall cost, and will result in overall improved satisfaction of patients, carers, and health professionals.

The modern digital technologies can be used to improve patient engagement, experience, medication adherence, providing update knowledge/information on specific disease/condition, help them monitor their health and conduct tele-assessment. There are many ways to achieve these goals, especially using sensors, wearable, tele-medicine platforms / websites and apps. This gives patients a sense of control and ownership in the healthcare journey to achieve better outcomes.

Using EHR (electronic health records) and data analytics combined with clinical support systems can help health professionals make informed decisions. To provide the best treatment protocols to patient’s healthcare professionals need to keep up with the latest technological developments because advances in care pathways are now integrally linked with new and emerging technology capabilities. Moreover, keeping up with the latest developments, gives an edge to the health professionals which can help them in their career progression. Additionally, if health professionals are not aware of the latest technology, they will not be able to understand the implication of using or not these technologies. The absence of this crucial knowledge can lead to non-compliance of regulatory compliance adherence. Therefore, to better engage and serve patients, speedy progression in career, adhering to regulatory compliance, all requires continuous upgrading and understanding latest trends and practices in healthcare industry.




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