Cheaper, faster, better results
If this sounds superficial, consider his sobering prediction that managers will soon be replaced by such reports noting metrics and inefficiencies. Computers will replace many other job categories as human expertise becomes too expensive, too slow and less reliable – witness the rise of computerized accounting and legal services.
But TMU’s business is health care. Here too, apps are proving irresistible because they cut costs while ensuring consistent quality.
Dr. Iqbal noted that Taiwan’s single-payer system is second only to Denmark’s in providing efficient, high-quality universal health services. But another of its virtues is the information that it provides through various databases.
In particular, each reimbursement claim lists the recipient’s address, diagnosis, medications, age, coexisting conditions, length of hospital stay, mortality, even income level. Other databases can interlink to compare various categories, for example relating these doctor’s office visits to information on air quality on various days, or noting spending patterns in the casualties and services after catastrophic events such as earthquakes.
That is why he said datathons are as demanding and exciting as hackathons (which Dr. Iqbal also excels in). His team of two staff and four students had two days to compete with other groups to find the most interesting and useful patterns in the data presented to them by contest organizers.
“They give the data, we find the questions: ‘Is it important? Is it doable?’” Dr. Iqbal explained. In Melbourne, they took electrocardiogram data and looked for heart rate variations that could predict cardiac arrest. Such information allows better preventive care by identifying higher-risk patients for individualized treatments.
“We were going to try to predict intensive care unit infections” based on the same data, he said. Many of the 120 participants will meet again at upcoming datathons planned in Malaysia and, later this year, at TMU.