Australia launches AI-based SMART-PH project for public health

Flinders University researchers will build a first-of-its-kind integrated and AI-based public health repository in Australia. The database will be used for public health surveillance and to support emergency management, such as natural disasters.

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The SMART-PH project will work as a support system for health digital infrastructure by digitizing information for practice in public health. The AI-based data platform will also enable real-time cooperation and information sharing among public health authorities, health care providers, and institutions.

Smart-PH will have real-time access to health data 

Starting this month, researchers will create a public health data pool. This data pool will be integrated with SA Health’s Digital Analytics Platform to provide comprehensive data sets. SA Health’s platform is reportedly linked to real-time clinical data, including electronic medical reports.

The SMART-PH project has raised 2.99 million Australian dollars, which is equivalent to USD two million US dollars. The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) provided the funding under the National Critical Research Infrastructure initiative.

Associate Professor Courtney Ryder is Discipline Lead for Injury Studies at the College of Medicine and Public Health of Flinders University. She said Australian healthcare is facing challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic. She said:

“The incidence of chronic and complex conditions in Australia is rising rapidly; disease burden is costing the healthcare system billions annually.”

The professor also highlighted that climate change is triggering natural disasters which are affecting the health of local communities. She also highlighted how real-time access to quality health data is crucial because, and how its absence creates challenges for effective planning. She noted the problems are more severe in rural areas.

AI will be a bedrock of the healthcare digital infrastructure 

The SMART-PH project is expected to reach the implementation and evaluation stage between 2027 and 2029. Ryder said artificial intelligence has proved its potential in enabling real-time public health data during the pandemic and enabling healthcare providers to stop the spread of diseases.

Flinders University Plaza event night. Source: Flinders University.

The professor said they want to employ the same technique to construct a comprehensive public health framework that will connect public health entities. She added that this will make laboratories and institutions more efficient and enable officials to make more informed decisions. 

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“With diligent planning and meticulous implementation, SMART-PH could improve the quality, efficiency, equity, accessibility, and resilience of our health system,” said Ryder. The Australian government’s National Digital Health Strategy for 2023 – 2028 has also given weight to data access to make informed decisions at the local and national levels in the healthcare sector. 

Back in January this year, the Australian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH) issued its blueprint for the next ten years. Along with an “online hub for digital career pathways,” AIDH also outlined four other targets for the betterment of the country’s healthcare sector. The institute said that Australian health workers are digitally empowered, and “Data and information are shared and reused securely to deliver a sustainable learning health system.”

BitcoinLinux reporting by Aamir Sheikh.