UOW researchers receive Brilliant Women in Digital Health Awards

UOW researchers receive Brilliant Women in Digital Health Awards

Awards celebrate contributions to digital health and technology throughout Australia

Two University of Wollongong (UOW) researchers, Tara Alexander and Ping Yu, have been recognised in the 2022 Brilliant Women in Digital Health Awards presented by Telstra Health to celebrate women finding ground-breaking digital solutions in the sector.

Tara Alexander is the Data Manager and Statistician for the Australasian Rehabilitation Outcomes Centre (AROC), headquartered at UOW. She was instrumental in establishing AROC and has created a purpose-built IT system, which is used across Australia and New Zealand to track and improve patient outcomes.

Mrs Alexander said, “I am proud of my vision to design and build an online system that enables real-time data collection and upload and provides live analysis plus the ability to download comprehensive national benchmarking reports. These data can be used to further medical rehabilitation research and, when used in data linkages, can lead to policy change and advocacy for rehabilitation services.

Professor Ping Yu is the Director of UOW’s Centre for Digital Transformation in the School of Computing and Information Technology. She also leads the Group of Digital Health and Digital Aged Care in Smart Infrastructure Facility at UOW.

One of Professor Yu’s contributions to the digital transformation of health and aged care was a research report endorsed by the federal government. It served as a springboard for implementing and improving IT systems in aged care.

Her work has focused on co-designing, developing and implementing digital health solutions with practitioners and using health informatics education to develop the digital health workforce. She has completed over 30 projects in collaboration with managers and clinicians, including a mobile app used by the World Health Organisation to collect disease surveillance data in Fiji.

Professor Yu said, “In 2002, when I started at the University of Wollongong, I immediately joined the Initiative for e-Health. I approached local aged care organisations, looking for practice-based projects.”

She remembers that students delivered a fantastic software application for an aged care organisation, yet nothing happened after that. The manager regretted that the organisation lacked the resources and infrastructure to implement our product. This setback motivated Professor Yu to investigate the capacity and willingness of aged care workers to use IT to manage care information and to continue research to promote digital transformation in health and aged care.

“With the wide uptake of digital health data capture, my team has swiftly shifted focus from the application of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, e.g., machine learning, knowledge graph and natural language processing, to the secondary analysis of electronic health records. We are co-designing innovative, safe AI tools with practitioners for the improvement of health and aged care delivery systems and practices,” Professor Yu said.

The 2022 Brilliant Women in Digital Health Awards are designed to raise awareness of the opportunities in the digital health sector and inspire others to follow the lead of the award recipients.

Award recipients have been recognised for their contributions to mentoring, medical research, technology development, improving health outcomes using digital health and introducing new digital processes for the delivery of health and aged care.

In Australia, women are significantly under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), making up 28 per cent of the workforce in 2021, whereas Australia’s health sector workforce is predominantly female. The digital health sector can pave the way for greater gender diversity in STEM.