Enabling Capabilities

Big Data in Health

Large datasets in health and medicine are offering enormous potential to inform improvements in the effectiveness, safety and efficiency of health care.

Integrating and mining routinely collected data, such as from medical service claims, hospital records, laboratories and research studies, allows us to detect patterns and trends and gain new insights that would not be possible using traditional research methods. It’s estimated that using big data effectively could reduce Australia’s national health expenditure by more than $11 billion annually.

UNSW Medicine uses big data across the research spectrum, from molecular analysis through to genetic research, clinical research, health systems research and population-level research.

The Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH) was established in 2014 as the first Australian research centre dedicated to health research using big data. Its aim is to maximise the productive use of all possible sources of health big data in order to enhance the health and wellbeing of Australians and the global community.

The CBDRH has four research units: the Health Services and Outcomes Unit, the Medicines Policy Research Unit, the Cancer Epidemiology Research Unit and the National Perinatal Epidemiology Statistics Unit (NPESU). The NPESU is a joint unit with the School of Women’s and Children’s Health.

CBDRH operates as a hub for collaborative interdisciplinary big data research across UNSW Medicine. It actively fosters a broad community of researchers who are adept in advanced analytic methods, agile in adopting new techniques, and who embody best practices in data security and privacy protection. It does so in partnership with the community, clinicians, policy makers, industry and an expanding network of multidisciplinary collaborators.

Large scale electronic data is also used in health and medical research in areas including cancer (Prince of Wales Clinical School, Lowy Cancer Research Centre), communicable diseases (Kirby Institute, School of Public Health and Community Medicine), drugs and alcohol (National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre), injury (Transport and Road Safety Research Centre, NeuRA), chronic disease and primary care (Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity), and mental health (Black Dog Institute).

The UNSW Schools of Computer Science and Engineering and Mathematics and Statistics also have major research strengths in a range of relevant methodologies and technologies, including biostatistics, bioinformatics, data mining, visualisation, natural language processing, cloud computing and high performance computing.