A collaboration involving Sydney Health Partners has received $1.9 million from the Medical Research Future Fund to test whether new technology can improve access to the electronic medical records (eMRs) of patients, and use the information to improve health service responsiveness and delivery during a crisis such as COVID-19.

Led by Monash Partners Academic Health Science Centre, the project brings together several healthcare services and members of the Australian Health Research Alliance (AHRA) to develop a National Learning Health System Data Management Platform.

Researchers including Sydney Health Partners’ University of Sydney Professors Tim Shaw and Tom Snelling will use data extraction technology developed in Britain and modify it for Australian settings. Using the system, called CogStack, the Australian collaborators hope to be able to extract information from eMRs regardless of whether it is structured or contained within a scanned document or image.

Lead investigator, Monash Partners’ Executive Director Professor Helena Teede, says CogStack will unlock previously inaccessible information and deliver unprecedented ability to improve healthcare and rapidly link Australians to cutting edge clinical trials.

“In the past we have only been able to examine the smallest amount of information entered into a patient’s electronic medical record,” said Professor Teede. “This technology will replace the current manual one and is expected to reduce the number of people who are missing opportunities to access innovative treatments in a particular clinical trial. It’s a game-changer.”

Professor Tim Shaw
Professor Tom Snelling

“In addition, the data management platform will enable hospitals to rapidly identify symptoms and patterns for conditions such as COVID-19 - and reduce disease spread by setting up prompts and processes to check test results and identify those at highest risk,” she said.

Development of the data management platform will be supported by the Monash Partners Learning Health System, a methodological approach that leads to iterative cycles of new knowledge generation and improvement in healthcare.

Professor Shaw says the project will support the development of local and national learning health systems.

“We are looking to support access to health data for variety of decision support and adaptive trial purposes across jurisdictions in a scalable and efficient manner while managing interoperability and consent.”

In addition to Sydney Health Partners and Monash Partners, the project is a collaboration between Alfred Health, Monash University, the National Centre of Health Ageing (Peninsula Health), Outcome Health, Health Translation South Australia, King’s College London, Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners, Western Australia Health Translation Network, Australian Digital Health Agency, Digital Health CRC and Safer Care Victoria.

“This work builds on considerable momentum, infrastructure, expertise and activity to date within the data platform space and works to integrate into core systems-level activities in Australia’s digital health journey,” said Professor Teede.

Also announced was approximately $700,000 in funding toward a Sydney Local Health District project that will better integrate remote monitoring technology into existing digital health infrastructure to enhance management of COVID-19 patients in virtual care.