Azizi Seixas, PhD, who is chairing the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s new Department of Informatics and Health Data Science, talks about the benefits and challenges of using data in healthcare.
Today’s healthcare landscape is all about data—collecting it, analyzing it, using it, and making sure that it’s accurate and reliable and not stuffed into a silo where it can’t be easily accessed.
With that in mind, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recently launched the Department of Informatics and Health Data Science, with a goal of “reimagin(ing) academic medicine, healthcare, and the life sciences to make profound improvements in patient care.” To lead this new venture, the university has selected as interim chair Azizi Seixas, PhD, director of the Media and Innovation Lab and Population Health Informatics in the school’s Institute of Data Science and Computing and associate director of the Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences.
“We are bringing in data scientists, biostatisticians, and computer scientists, but that’s just the start,” Seixas, a noted data evangelist who spent several years at NYU Langone Health before joining the University of Miami in 2021, said in a recent press release. “We are also reexamining the Miller School’s relationship with data to make transformative changes in healthcare. We’re entering this space to redefine it.”
Seixas recently sat down—virtually—with HealthLeaders to talk about the new department and his views on the use of data in healthcare.
Q. This is a new department. How was it created?
Seixas: The Department of Informatics and Health Data Science was created at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to address the growing need for health data analytics and informatics in today’s rapidly changing healthcare landscape. The department’s focus is on developing innovative solutions to enhance patient care, improve health outcomes, and optimize the use of healthcare resources through the use of data-driven approaches. With the increasing importance of data in healthcare decision-making and research, the [department] is committed to training the next generation of healthcare informatics professionals and advancing the field through cutting-edge research and partnerships with industry leaders.
Q. How will this department affect how healthcare is measured and delivered?
Seixas: By leveraging advanced data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence techniques, the department will enable healthcare providers to identify patterns, trends, and insights in patient data that were previously undetectable.
Azizi Seixas, PhD, interim chair of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Informatics and Health Data Science. Photo courtesy University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
This will not only improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of care, but it will also facilitate the development of more effective treatment protocols, personalized medicine, and innovative medical devices. Additionally, the department will develop new methodologies for managing and analyzing health data, making it easier to securely store, access, and share data across different institutions.
Ultimately, the creation of this department represents a transformative shift in how healthcare is practiced, moving from a reactive model that responds to acute illnesses to a proactive model that focuses on preventing disease and optimizing health outcomes through data-driven insights.
Q. What technologies will you be using?
Seixas: We will be focusing on a range of technologies to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. This includes leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyze complex health data and develop predictive models for disease prevention and management. We will also be using digital technology to improve communication and collaboration among healthcare providers, as well as implementing remote patient monitoring to enhance patient care and access. We will also be trailblazing cloud and edge computing to facilitate the use of internet-of-things digital devices for real-time patient care whereby patients can be monitored at home and provide real-time insights to improve and achieve health and wellness.
In addition, our department will be exploring the use of digital biomarkers and digital therapeutics to personalize treatments and optimize health outcomes for patients. We believe that by integrating these cutting-edge technologies into healthcare, we can revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered and improve the lives of patients across the globe.
Q. What are the challenges you see ahead in obtaining and using data?
Seixas: There are several challenges that we anticipate. One of the biggest challenges is data quality, as there is often incomplete or inaccurate data that needs to be cleaned and standardized before it can be used effectively. Additionally, there are concerns around data privacy and security, which need to be carefully managed to ensure patient confidentiality and compliance with regulations.
Another challenge is interoperability, as different systems and platforms may use different data formats and structures that need to be reconciled for meaningful analysis. Finally, there are issues around data ownership and access, as different stakeholders may have competing interests in how data is collected and used. Addressing these challenges will be critical to maximizing the potential of health data for improving patient outcomes and driving innovation in healthcare.
Q. What new technologies or strategies do you want to use? What’s on the horizon?
Seixas: The [department] is focused on leveraging new and emerging technologies to advance healthcare. One exciting area of focus is digital twins, which can facilitate precision and personalized population health. By creating digital representations of patients, clinicians and researchers can gain a deeper understanding of individual health and develop personalized treatment plans.
Other technologies and strategies we are exploring include advanced analytics, machine learning, and remote patient monitoring. We are also committed to addressing the challenges around data privacy, security, and interoperability to ensure that data is collected, analyzed, and used in an ethical and responsible manner. Overall, our goal is to improve patient outcomes and transform the way healthcare is delivered through innovative uses of technology and data.
Q. How will health systems be able to learn from your department? What do you hope to teach them on how to gather and use data?
Seixas: In addition to helping healthcare systems learn how to gather and use data, we also hope to work closely with life sciences and clinical operations to advance innovation in these areas. Our department will provide training and education on cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning, and digital biomarkers, as well as offer courses on precision and personalized population health, digital therapeutics, and remote patient monitoring.
Through these efforts, we aim to create a new cadre of medical providers and scientists who are innovative and have a deep understanding of how to leverage data and technology to improve patient outcomes. This will ultimately lead to better decision-making, more efficient operations, and improved overall quality of care.
Additionally, we plan to collaborate with life sciences and clinical operations [department] on research projects that leverage the power of data and technology to accelerate drug discovery, improve clinical trials, and optimize care delivery. Our goal is to create a symbiotic relationship between the various stakeholders in healthcare, all working towards the common goal of advancing patient care and improving health outcomes.
Q. Are there specific programs or services offered by health systems that you feel this department can refine or improve?
Seixas: There are several programs and services offered by health systems that we believe our department can help refine and improve through digital transformation. Our focus is not on any one specific department, but rather on collaborating across all areas of the health system to drive innovation and improve patient outcomes. We will also be instrumental in the digital transformation of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
One area of particular interest is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of clinical trials through the use of digital technologies such as AI, machine learning, and digital biomarkers. We also aim to improve the delivery of care through the use of remote patient monitoring, digital therapeutics, and other digital technologies that can help patients better manage their own health.
Q. Are there any trends or practices in healthcare now that you would like to end? In other words, what are healthcare providers doing wrong?
Seixas: One trend that I would like to see change is the overreliance on hospital-based care.
Many medical procedures and treatments can now be provided at home, with the right technology and support. Additionally, decentralizing healthcare by making it more accessible to all, including those in underserved and remote areas, is crucial. Healthcare providers are not doing anything wrong, but they are often overwhelmed and suffer from huge burnout.
The use of AI and technology can help alleviate some of these burdens and allow for more focus on patient care. We will be focusing on developing innovative solutions that empower patients and healthcare providers, and promote healthcare at home and decentralized care. We hope to be key players in the digital transformation of healthcare and to help improve the overall health of our communities.
Q. Do consumers or patients have a role to play in this department?
Seixas: By using digital technology and tools such as patient portals, wearables, and remote monitoring devices, patients can actively participate in their own healthcare and contribute to the collection of health data. Additionally, patient feedback and input can be used to improve healthcare delivery and inform the development of new technologies and strategies. The department also aims to educate patients and the general public about health data science and the importance of data-driven healthcare decisions.
Q. How do you see your work evolving in, say, 10 years?
Seixas: In the next 10 years, we expect to see significant advancements in healthcare technologies and data science. Our department will continue to stay at the forefront of these developments and help shape the future of healthcare delivery.
We see ourselves expanding our partnerships and collaborations with other institutions and industries to drive innovation and improve patient outcomes. We also anticipate a greater emphasis on precision and personalized medicine, with the use of digital twins and other cutting-edge technologies becoming more commonplace.
Our focus will remain on using data-driven insights to improve healthcare delivery and patient care. Ultimately, we hope to be at the forefront of a paradigm shift in healthcare, where digital technology and data science play an integral role in shaping the future of medicine.
Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.