Australia and Covid-19: High quality data vital to ‘understand and cope’

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Access to high quality data is essential for healthcare systems to “understand and cope” with chaos and complexities, the CCIO of Queensland Health has said.

During his keynote session at the Digital Health Virtual Summer School, Australia’s Professor Keith McNeil, acting deputy director-general and chief medical officer of Queensland Health, said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the “power of sharing information”.

Referring to Covid-19 as the “Uber disruptor of healthcare” he said the biggest lesson learned in Queensland was the “value of data in understanding and coping with complexity”.

“The more information you have and the higher quality that information then you start to bring order to chaos because it enables us to reduce uncertainty,” he said.

“The better the quality of information that we have the better our understanding of complexity and chaos.”

McNeil, the former first NHS England CCIO, added that Covid has “shone a light on all the cracks we’ve been covering over” and called for data to be democratised from a “need to know basis to an everybody needs to know” basis.

Allowing everyone to have access to the data they need allows them to better do their jobs and prepare for unpredictable circumstances like Covid, he said.

“We need to get better at sharing data and information across the players, the actors, at the front line,” he told the audience,” Prof McNeil added.

“Distributed decision making is critical if we want organisations to be resilient, and that’s dependent on the flow of information.

“We need to shorten the value of decision making, which is the point to how decisions are made from the point of asking the questions.”

He closed his talk by saying that Covid-19 had “provided an opportunity” to learn from the response and recovery to better prepare for future critical healthcare situations.

McNeil was the former head of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust before being appointed NHS England’s first national chief clinical information officer in 2016.

Before taking up the national role he led the ambitious eHospital programme at Cambridge, the biggest NHS trust digitisation programme at the time.

After just 13 months in the national role McNeil resigned to returned to Australia and take up the role of chief executive at Metro North Hospital and Health Service in Queensland.

Earlier today, the Virtual Summer School heard from Shayne Hunter, deputy director for general data and digital at New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, who said there was “still a lot more to do” in the countries digital response to coronavirus.

On day one of the Virtual Summer School, attendees heard from the national CIO and CNIO, who said the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology.

The Shuri Network also returned for a panel – one year after it was officially launched.

You can follow all the latest updates from the Digital Health Virtual Summer School by following the #DHVSS20 hashtag on Twitter.

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