Early warning of public health risks
Syndromic surveillance involves rapidly acquiring and evaluating data from hospital emergency departments to provide early warning of possible public health risks. By looking for certain ‘sets’ of words or symptoms in the triage notes entered when a patient first presents, syndromic surveillance has the potential to identify unusual patterns of illness.
- fevers and rashes in patients who’ve recently travelled overseas
- widespread increases in gastro-intestinal illness potentially linked to contaminated food or water
Rapid identification of these possible red flags enables public health officials to put measures in place to prevent further illness.
The Health Protection Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services engaged VCDI to undertake a proof-of-concept project applying advanced text analytics on a de-identified historical dataset of Victorian emergency department presentations and triage text. Six cases of potentially significant disease were identified during a 4-month collaboration. More than 500,000 records were analysed.
The next step is an operational proof-of-concept project. This will undertake a similar analysis on de-identified datasets from several emergency departments.
Helping Uber Air land in Melbourne
Invest Victoria sought VCDI’s help in attracting Uber to Melbourne to trial a new air taxi service. With global cities jostling, Uber was hungry for insights into local travel patterns to underpin its investment decision which will create jobs and significantly boost Victoria’s economy.
VCDI blended datasets from across government, and applied advanced analytics techniques to produce tailored information and visualisations on how a shared-flight service could benefit Victorians. Guided by VCDI’s data analysis, Uber chose Melbourne as one of three global launch cities.
We predict this investment will create up to 1,000 jobs and inject tens of millions of dollars into Victoria’s economy. The project will also enhance the state’s reputation for innovation and improve transport data and infrastructure planning.
The Uber work shows VCDI’s capacity to perform similar mobility analysis for major Victorian infrastructure projects, and highlights the VCDI team’s vital role in advising on governance frameworks, technology platforms and other project elements.
Embedding modern ways of working at DET
The Department of Education and Training’s Performance and Evaluation Division (PED) approached VCDI in 2018 to help overcome technology, process and workflow challenges.
VCDI experts immersed with PED teams to:
- embed agile ways of working
- prioritise development areas
- build a culture of transparency and continuous improvement
VCDI supported adoption of ‘paired development’ practices to increase staff versatility and remove single points of failure. PED also began using cloud-based software to automate data validation and testing.
PED quickly began to see:
- increased interactions between individuals and teams
- a reduction in miscommunication
- improved workflows
Time saved is devoted to higher-value activities, which has improved the quality of insights, and built greater trust with PED’s customers.
Partnering with universities to attract talent
VCDI annually hosts students from Melbourne Business School’s Master of Business Analytics program. The 5-week stints allow Master’s students to apply their skills on real projects that deliver public benefit. Students have:
- helped identify ways to better tailor government services
- assisted with syndromic surveillance work
VCDI provides a supportive environment and an insight into the opportunities and challenges of using data in the public sector. The program positions the VPS as an employer of choice for analytics graduates.
VCDI’s online resources help build data literacy
With more than 700 members, it is the largest and one of the most active groups on the Innovation Network. Members can access:
- regular data-related events and workshops
- resources to support their use of data
- discussion threads to leverage the knowledge of VPS colleagues
VCDI has also developed the Data Learning and Development Resource to build foundational understanding of key concepts. These toolkits cover each facet of using data, from defining the problem to communicating findings. Each toolkit highlights key principles to consider and accessible resources to help staff build skills.
Reviewed 13 February 2020