MQ Health - Macquarie University

Health services and systems

Primarily through its Australian Institute of Health Innovation (AIHI), MQ Health conducts world-recognised research into the services and technologies of healthcare and ultimately the entire system itself. Such research is a key part of delivering better quality and more sustainable healthcare for Australia.

Health informatics

AIHI’s Centre for Health Informatics explores how information and communication technology is changing the way that healthcare is delivered. The overarching goal of this research is to design and evaluate future healthcare systems that build on the latest in information and communication technology.

For example, one area of research seeks to exploit the increasing digitisation of healthcare data to deliver a ‘learning’ health system. Such a decision-support system would eventually predict, at the push of a button, the optimal treatment for each patient from real-time matching of their data with large numbers of similar electronic records.

Complementary research is developing software tools to assist clinicians assimilate the rapidly growing volume of medical and health research findings. These tools, which use computational linguistics and machine learning, are able to integrate evidence from multiple sources to help the clinicians to make evidence-based decisions in their everyday work. A related area of study seeks to devise automated ways to measure and mitigate biases in research and so deliver the most balanced evidence-base for medical decision making.

Of course, new health software and technologies come with new risks, including those arising from systems failures. Consequently another active area of research is understanding and mitigating the safety risks of current and future digital health technologies.

Other studies are focussed on ‘consumer informatics’ to understand how new health ‘apps’, websites and social media impact on consumers, patients and their carers.

Healthcare resilience

AIHI’s Centre for Healthcare Resilience and Implementation Science seeks to help stressed modern healthcare systems cope with the growing and increasingly complex care demands of ageing populations, rapid technological and organisational change, and stretched healthcare budgets.

Delivering appropriate care – that is evidence- or guideline-based care – doesn’t occur in every healthcare encounter. So part of this research is evaluating when appropriate care does occur and then piloting new approaches to clinical standards and exploring digital platforms for their system-wide delivery. Such tools will help clinicians deliver the right care at the right time to the right patients.

To deliver such evidence-based care, however, also requires healthcare professionals to change their behaviour. Therefore, another area of research is the application of behaviour change methods to design interventions that can transform healthcare organisations and improve patient outcomes. Research on how healthcare professionals interact with their work environment and technologies brings another relevant perspective to these questions. And both of these areas are examples of ‘implementation science’, research into methods that help translate the latest research findings into clinical practice.

Other work is using advanced epidemiological methods to improve our estimates of the burden of injury and disease. These data are integral for priority-setting by government health departments and to aid in evaluating the impact of preventative and public health strategies.

Health systems and safety

Research within AIHI’s Centre for Health Systems and Safety Researchtakes an in-depth look at the safety, effectiveness and cost-efficiency of healthcare delivery, and particularly of healthcare technologies.

The centre’s researchers are devising rigorous and innovative ways to assess health informatics. By applying these methods, they are addressing research question such as how well information technology systems –for example, computerised decision support for prescribers – fit in with the work of doctors. An important part of this effort is detailed research to uncover actual, rather than idealised’, clinical workflows in busy hospital settings.

Other research is assessing how information technology can reduce medication errors and support improved medication therapy decisions and outcomes. Related work is investigating the potential for electronic pathology and imaging systems to improve the appropriate and efficient use of pathology and imaging services in hospitals.

Another area of study addresses questions of safety and quality of life in the aged care sector. It considers use of community support services by older people, the quality of care provided within residential aged care facilities and the role of information technologies as an enabler of effective care.

Work is also underway to identify the risks to patient safety in primary care, and how to mitigate those risks. Particular areas of interest are the use of digital health in primary care settings, from electronic clinical information systems to “My Health Record”, and from secure messaging to electronic medication management.