11 Dec 2019
Current Issue

Diving into data

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre

In 2013, the McKeon report highlighted that health services research is critical to understand, assist and evaluate research translation to improve the effectiveness of the Australian healthcare system. International experience showed that a systematic, academic program of outcomes-focused health services research can assist in getting the latest advances to cancer patients.

The evidence was compelling but there was a major barrier in the way.

Potential goldmine of information and data

Historically, health data has been siloed in disparate systems; trapped by complexities in data governance that was preventing connection and comparison for research. A potential goldmine of information and data was languishing in primary health care records, hospital records and various cancer registries. Without effective linkage, it was very difficult to compare and explore to help answer clinical questions.

Now, the VCCC Data-Driven Research Hub (Data Hub) is changing all that. 

In November the VCCC launched the Data Hub, a new resource for cancer researchers that overcomes longstanding barriers; shown graphically here: 

The Hub combines a number of elements: a data-sharing platform that uses GHRANITE software developed by Prof Dougie Boyle at the University of Melbourne to unlock GP data, along with data-sharing systems and infrastructure provided by BioGrid. In addition, the VCCC Data-driven Research Hub Manager, Chris Kearny, is available to provide advice for researchers in the project design phase so that the limitations on interpretation of datasets are understood, the right data is accessed to answer the research question and fewer time-consuming ethics amendments are required.

Sophisticated analytical tools and techniques

The Data Hub also provides expertise in data sciences through the University of Melbourne Cancer Health Services Research group to allow clinicians and researchers to utilise sophisticated analytical tools and techniques that will allow them to harness existing electronic health data while minimising the risk of over-interpretation.

The aim is for the Data Hub to act as a research project incubator, assisting idea generation and concept development and providing advice on analytic methods so that research is more likely to have impact on patient outcomes.

To find out more or express interest in attending the next Data Hub workshop, please contact Chris Kearney, Program Manager – VCCC Data-Driven Research Hub e. chris.kearney@unimelb.edu.au