Precision Driven Health (PDH) recently commissioned a report to review areas of importance surrounding the PDH initiative, both in New Zealand and overseas. There were three main goals of this report:

  1. To identify the current state of knowledge in precision driven health.
  2. To compare New Zealand with international benchmarks.
  3. To help PDH to prioritise its research programme.

Completing these goals helps to provide the PDH partnership with:

  • A better understanding of global research efforts,
  • A clear sense of where PDH currently stands nationally and internationally, and
  • A direction toward which PDH can head.

New Zealand has huge potential for healthcare data research. There has been a vast amount of information collected since the New Zealand National Health Index was introduced in 1993. This data could be used to advance health delivery and research. The unique ethnic diversity and cultural environment within New Zealand opens doors to exclusive research opportunities, such as Māori and Pacific health. Our relatively small population also serves as a great sample size for testing new innovations.

Around the world, many other countries have also initiated government-funded programs to look at the potential of precision health. In 2016, US President Obama called for $215 million to support the Precision Medicine Initiative throughout the USA. The European Commission has established strategies for what it calls “Personalised Medicine” for member countries, and is also funding related projects under the Horizon 2020 scheme. The United Kingdom has begun precision health ventures such as the 100,000 Genomes project, an initiative to sequence and store genomics data for better diagnoses and treatment of cancer and rare diseases.

The report made a point of stating that New Zealand is not currently fulfilling its considerable health IT potential.  The authors concluded that PDH should consider working towards combining the datasets from DHBs around the country. This data should be shared between research partners to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes for New Zealanders. The socio-economic effects of PDH research need to be considered and, in addition, questions regarding data privacy and ownership will require careful thought. The PDH initiative has the potential to make NZ healthcare a world leader.