The Medical City’s Head of Health Informatics and Technology, Nelson Tiongson, shares insights on the rapidly advancing world of healthcare data & analytics
Nelson Tiongson is a health informatics professional with more than 10 years of experience specialising in health information systems, electronic medical records, project management, analytics, customer engagement and research and quality improvement.
Tiongson, currently the Head of Health Informatics and Technology for The Medical City in the Philippines, has spent more than 10 years providing advice on healthcare-related IT strategies and acquisitions, training and information utilisation and has a strong focus on empowering users to maximise technology, data, and processes to improve health.
Ahead of our first Data and Analytics in Healthcare ASEAN Online event this October, we sat down with Tiongson to hear about challenges and changes in the world of healthcare informatics, data analytics and technology.
Unique Challenges in Healthcare and Data and Analytics
The conversation over the unique challenges faced by professionals like himself was the natural starting point for Tiongson. Individually, data and healthcare sectors have evolved rapidly in recent times, and a large responsibility to society sits heavily on professionals operating in both these arenas.
“Considering the rate at which data is being produced in this era and add the complexities of the continuously evolving healthcare processes, data and analytics professionals in the healthcare industry have a lot to face but can generate substantial impact to society’s overall health,” he says.
“Take for example with the principles of data quality, the various datasets such as demographics, financials, clinical, and consumer-generated types with their specific subsets, the processes of data collection and the mapping of all these together, are all intertwined when you go into analytics projects.”
In organisations of siloed systems and processes, automated and manual data creates a lot of effort for the data consolidator, more effort even when systems are not integrated, cautioned Tiongson.
“In data validation for quality, like checking for accuracies and completeness, data analysts should be equipped with a deeper knowledge of the processes of each type of dataset, only then can you create a holistic picture for that will be ripe insights,” he says.
Tiongson thinks that while most data and analytics professionals provide a more complex service, data encoders on the business and operation side, or end-users, should now be instilled with the principles of basic data management to ensure data quality.
“Another challenge I’m looking at is the imbalance of distribution in terms of the human capital aspect,” he says.
“One needs data to do analytics, yet one needs to be trained with healthcare and analytics to be able to do manage the data and analytics. There are those that manage the data (healthcare organisations) but the capacity for analytics is still lacking, while there are experts in the field (suppliers/academics) without any grasp of any actual data for them to work on.”
A Melting Pot of Transformation
As a historically diverse and archipelagic region working towards a common goal of excellence in healthcare, Tiongson says that Southeast Asia is a melting pot of various levels of transformation.
“Each level has its own gaps between technology evolution and implementation and adoption,” he says.
“There are healthcare organisations that have been aggressive and are leading in their digital transformation efforts, like having robust Hospital Information Systems (HIS) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR), which gives them an edge in their organisation’s data-driven decision making.”
On the other hand, Tiongson says there are still many organisations that rely heavily on manual processes and are still starting their digital transformation journeys. Therefore, data management and usage is expected to be stagnant since paper or manual-based processes tend to focus on their own departments and operate in siloes.
Despite seemingly tough challenges to overcome, Tiongson is optimistic about Southeast Asia’s potential as a future healthcare data and analytics stronghold.
“Healthcare decisions are essentially founded through data, especially clinical decisions, but the evolving technology also dictates how to transform the processes to the next level, and that focuses primarily on the breaking of the siloes that have been prevalent in their manual processes,” he says.
“Since the transformations are ongoing and patterned from other more developed use cases all over the world, the progress for Southeast Asia will be promising, as the learnings from initial data and digital transformations have already been incorporated.”
Digital Twins, Metaverses and Post-COVID Life
Of course, as transformation and analytics continue to shape the way healthcare evolves, the influence of technology will become even more paramount.
“The trajectories for more mature transformation in data management and analytics points to digital twins and metaverses, and its potential to healthcare is exciting, especially in this era of going to post-COVID where digital transformation has accelerated to most organisations,” Tiongson says.
“Aside from improving costs and delivery of healthcare services, digital twins and metaverses provide the major element of safety to the patient, whilst continuously doing trial and errors through a replicated twin of the patient in a safe space which increases the quality of treatment capacity through data-driven virtual simulations.”
Tiongson muses that another focus area will be monitoring communicable and non-communicable diseases when living in the post-COVID world, and analytics has a major role to play here.
“A major factor to ensure organisations can mature into this level is the need to establish a good data governance program,” he says.
“This will help define what you want to do with the data that you have, how you should be taking care of it and help to break the siloed approach and be more holistic. Data analytics efforts or its success leverage availability and quality of data, which should also be taken care of.”
At Healthcare ASEAN Online in October, Tiongson will share how his organisation’s digital transformation journey is connected to its data transformation journey.
“I’ll be highlighting where we came from, to where we want to be, the challenges we have overcome, and learnings to stay ahead from our own experiences,” he says.