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NZ could be global leader in digital health

Tuesday, 10 September 2019  
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Picture: US cardiologist and expert on digital medicine and personalised healthcare Eric Topol

 

eHealthNews.nz editor Rebecca McBeth

 

New Zealand has the people and the data to become a world leader in digital health, says a global expert in digital medicine and personalised healthcare.

 

Eric Topol appeared via video link at the 30 years of NIHI Conference in Auckland on 9 September where he spoke about the future of digital health. The US cardiologist is the author of The Patient Will See You Now and took up a fractional appointment in NIHI in July 2018.

 

“New Zealand has some of the best computer scientists and AI experts in the world. You’re well advanced in the development of avatars that can be easily employed in healthcare,” he told the NIHI audience.

 

“New Zealand also has some of the most impressive longitudinal datasets in the world, so, between what you already have and what you could have going forward, there’s no reason why New Zealand couldn’t be at the leading edge of all of this worldwide.”

 

Topol said it is important that every country gathers patient data in a systematic way so it can be used in machine learning, especially countries with diverse populations like New Zealand.

 

The lack of diversity of patient data globally is a problem as algorithms and neural networks can only learn from the data that is fed to them. For example, nearly 80 per cent of people involved in genomics studies are European.

 

Topol told attendees that deep learning is transforming the future of health. A neural network has been trained to recognise the gender of someone by their retina with 97 per cent accuracy, whereas humans are right only half of the time.

 

“Machines can be trained with deep learning to see things that humans can’t,” he said.

 

Another deep learning algorithm showed the ability to predict acute kidney injury up to two days before it actually happened, which could reduce the need for dialysis or transplant or even prevent death.

 

While there are many retrospective studies using deep learning, these are using the same large datasets again and again and there is a lack of prospective studies or randomised control trials.

 

So, there is a lot of research, but little implementation in clinical practice, he said.

 

Topol talked about digitised clinical trials as an economical and rapid way of doing clinical trials. This is where recruitment and enrolment is done online, sensors or other technology are used to send results electronically and data is shared with participants online.

 

Topol is involved with what he described as “the most ambitious medical research programme in US history” called ‘All of Us’ in which participants wear multiple sensors to give a “panoramic view of the individual”.

 

More than half of the 250,000 participants in this project are from ethnic minority groups and the project is likely to continue for decades.

 

If you would like to provide feedback on this news story please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.

 

Read more news:

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