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Queensland Health's Dr Richard Ashby outlines vision, tech play

Jennifer O'Brien | July 17, 2017
Lessons learned from payroll disaster -- and previous clinician and clinical administrator roles -- to help direct the ship

He said he is relying on his past roles to help him steer the ship at his current post, which is both rewarding and challenging in his combined CEO/CIO role.

"The key thing is strategy. Because I have a fairly deep understanding of the healthcare industry, and particularly hospitals, I can bring that emphasis into the world of eHealth. And, in particular, creating an understanding in our business, the eHealth business, of the dependency now of the health system on us. We cannot fail. Because if we fail, it can bring down a hospital, or it can bring down a system.  

"There are very few things that can stop a big hospital or a health system, but a failure in these key digital systems now would be capable of causing that kind of impact. So we have a much higher obligation now in terms of our uptime and preventing any interruption to the business," he said.

So what keeps him up at night? Some of his main challenges include dealing with large scale projects and staying ahead of the curve, and addressing market trends particularly digitisation.

"The challenge is always keeping the momentum going in big projects that run over very many years. Maintaining clinical engagement in the process is a challenge, and advancing the analytics agenda because lots of the benefits that we now see from digitisation of our health system will come from advanced analytics, which didn't exist before and could not exist in the paper world.

"So we're doing a lot of work on rapid translation of evidence into care. A lot of work on prescriptive and predictive analytics. We're doing more work around augmented intelligence and a lot of work around business intelligence and big data."

On the augmented intelligence front, he said the department uses it in the management of melanoma at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, whereby health experts are using 3D vector imaging to take high definition photographs of suspicious skin lesions. The data is then analysed by IBM Watson and using cognitive capabilities to make a prediction about the likelihood of a mole being melanoma or not.

"We're using that kind of technology and machine learning and augmented intelligence to assist our dermatology specialists to more rapidly and more accurately diagnose melanoma."

The prospect of these emerging, futuristic technologies is exciting for the healthcare industry, he noted, adding there's going to be "an explosion" of that type of technology.

"Certainly, if you're looking at diabetes care, there are new apps for patients. There are over 100,000 health related apps out there. And the interaction between apps and sensors and the Internet of Things (IOT) and all of that converging around healthcare information that we're producing in our hospitals is fusing with consumer generated information, which is precision medicine."


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