The opportunities for Big Data are great and wide ranging in the healthcare sector, the challenges especially in Australia are also as such. Big Data Techniques require data to be captured, stored, analysed and linked. But the current Australian healthcare policies faces challenges in enabling big data to realise its potential benefits according to the McKell report. Policy settings need to pin-point structural, legislative, financial, technical and social challenges. Below are some of the major obstacles that Australia faces in utilising big data to solve problems in the industry.
The Healthcare System is Far too Fragmented:
Australia’s healthcare system is a large intertwined web of fragments that include complex service networks, providers, recipients and organisational structures. Both the state and territory governments in Australia have a responsibility for providing services, funding and setting policies.
The private sector on the other hand provide services through private hospitals, pharmacies and are often funded by insurers. This makes the information muddled, as it is captured by both the public and the private sector. The complexity of the collection process makes sharing data very difficult. Data is collected from the various stakeholders as follows:
(i) Healthcare provider clinical data – captured by individual practitioners, public (state) and private hospitals, and the Federal Government (My Health Record);
(ii) Administrative claims and cost data – captured by the federal and state governments, private sector providers and insurers;
(iii)Pharmaceutical and medical products R&D data – captured by pharmaceutical companies and research organisations (public and private); and
(iv)Personal behavior data – captured by citizens and commercial organisations. (McKell Report)
Collection of Individual Data is Unsystematic:
Electronic health records help providers in capturing sharing and nurturing data. Without it information collected by providers is often fragmented as data collected relies heavily on memory which could lead to inaccuracies in data collection. The My Health Record in Australia was first launched in 1 July 2012 and gained more than a million registered users. Despite continued efforts, customer registration seemed to plateau in the following months.
Images below show the user registration patterns for My Health Record:
Despite the Plateau the Australian Medical Association remains not supportive of the My Health Record. It deems the My Health Record yet to be fit for purpose. As a result there has been negligent action taken on the improvement of the Record to date.
Government Agencies Face Challenges with Capacity, Capability and Costs:
Government agencies face massive challenges in the development of policy and delivery services for big data. the Australian Government’s Department of Finance and Deregulation entitled Big Data Strategies identifies the following challenges:
- Privacy, security and trust – The use of big data by government agencies adds an extra layer of security and cyber breach policies that need to be managed
- Data Management and Sharing – There needs to be greater transparency in Government agencies to use and share data among one another.
- Technology and analytical systems – Government agencies need to look into increasing their capacities and capabilities in storing, sharing and analysing data.
- Skills – Government agencies will need to source talent in the required field to manage big data.
Furthermore, all of these factors will have cost implications. Storage, security, technology, analytics and skills attainment will require more funding. The desired benefits may not be realised for a considerable period of time later, sometimes for years or decades.
Learn from Stephen Duckett, Health Program Director at Grattan Institute on how to use Big Data effectively to overcome the challenges the Australian healthcare industry is facing at the Financial & Operational Improvements in Hospitals Conference, 23ed & 24th October, Sydney.