Driussi adds that shoppers are opting in to share their data with Woolworths in return for personalised offers. The result is pinpoint-accurate, data-driven marketing that, says Driussi, businesses ignore at their peril. (If you detect a decrease in random junk mail and an uptick in offers that appeal to you, you’re seeing this at work.) “I really notice when the marketing is bad,” he says. “If I get emails from a brand trying to sell me something that has nothing to do with what I want, I switch off.”
Personalised service, he points out, dates back to when the owner of the corner store knew your name and your favourite brands – “but that went out the window” with shopping centres. Now companies are analysing enormous tranches of data to “turn attention back to customers at scale”. In 2005, Quantium had two servers and about 1.2 terabytes (TB) of storage for all its data processing. Today you can buy a 2TB portable hard drive for under $100 and Quantium has about 1600TB of storage from a specially designed cluster of computers and software. “The computation speed we have access to today is 19,000 times faster than 10 years ago.”
The advancement is “not about trying to replace gut feel”, says Driussi, acknowledging that many feel threatened by the march of algorithms. “We’re trying to give you more information to make your job easier and to make better decisions, because there are a hell of a lot of decisions that still need to be made by humans.”
The learnings from analysing behaviours and trends for brands are also informing Quantium’s work with governments and their data-analytics centres, looking at areas such as infrastructure planning, education and healthcare systems. “The challenge for governments is that they don’t have a single view of citizens because their data sets are disparate and not connected,” says Driussi. They need to be brought together to build a fuller picture for greater insights. On one project, for example, Quantium’s data scientists are melding government data and other demographic data sets, hunting for ways to improve funding models for schools. Every 10 minutes, someone in Australia has a heart attack. Surviving it is one thing but completing a rehabilitation program afterwards is their best shot at avoiding another one.
In 2015, The Heart Foundation and Ernst & Young conducted a cost-benefit analysis that estimated if cardiac-rehab completion increased from 30 to 50 per cent, the Australian health system would reap a net saving of $191.8 million over 10 years.
But getting patients to commit to these programs is the issue. CSIRO’s Brisbane-based Australian E-Health Research Centre was the cradle for Cardihab, a smartphone app that remotely monitors patients as they recover and adopt more heart-healthy habits.
The project won a berth in CSIRO’s competitive accelerator program, ON, and in September, Cardihab became a standalone startup, part of CSIRO’s strategy to commercialise its research. “Cardihab exemplifies the combination of public good and economic outcomes that makes ON so unique,” said CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall.
The Cardihab app leads patients through their rehab program remotely, supported by clinicians over the phone. Patients manually enter data such as food, alcohol and water consumption. “We find this keeps their rehabilitation front of mind and helps them change their behaviour,” says Cardihab co-founder and chief technology officer Simon McBride. If patients have Bluetooth-enabled devices to measure vitals such as blood pressure and weight, the app can collect that data. Step counts are taken off the smartphone and Cardihab is working to integrate with wearables such as Fitbit. “We want to make the acquisition of data as simple as possible for patients,” says McBride.
The concept of delivering a rehab program remotely was put through a world-first randomised controlled trial, which was reported in specialist British journal Heart in 2014. “The trial demonstrated that we could improve uptake of cardiac rehab by 29 per cent and completion of the program by 78 per cent,” says McBride. The number of patient visits to a clinic or hospital was reduced by 90 per cent and clinical outcomes were equivalent. It worked.
Conventional cardiac-rehab programs generally run for six to 12 weeks, monitoring physical recovery and helping patients make lifestyle changes. But work, life and even hospital car park fees can stop patients completing (or even starting) their prescribed program. Weekly face-to-face appointments involve weight and blood pressure checks, exercise and education sessions.
The Cardihab app collects data around all of those risk factors and includes educational videos and links, goal-setting and even relaxation audio. And, unlike a single weekly session, it’s with the patient 24/7, in their phone.
“Smartphones and wearable devices are expanding the possibilities for clinical care,” says McBride, who sees the potential for GPs to use a version of the app as a preventative tool for patients with red flags for cardiac risk. “The technology provides clinical-grade data and that’s going to change the way care is delivered.”
The key to Cardihab’s success is “the combination of that high-quality data and having a human in the loop who knows how to interpret it and motivate the patient”, says McBride. “We have a specific time built into the protocol for the clinician and the patient to speak on the phone and reflect on the data that’s been entered over the past week. We need a human there to say, ‘You’ve done well on this, not so well here, or you haven’t put in any data here so we need to discuss how engaged you are.’ So the app is facilitating conversations that wouldn’t otherwise happen at all.”