Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning for Healthcare in South Africa

Vanessa Carter
Date: 23 August 2017
Time: 20:30 SAST | 14:30 EST
Hashtag: #hcsmSA
How to participate
Event reminder

Start your answers with T1, T2, T3, T4 or CT for transcript purposes after the moderator prompts.
Both panel experts and attendees are encouraged to participate.
Transcript and community analytics are recorded by Symplur here and open to the public for R&D purposes.

T1: Why is Big Data, Analytics, or Artificial Intelligence (#AI) important to e-Health?
T2: What data points are important to include or not in e-Health systems?
T3: What sort of privacy, safety or security issues should we be, or are you concerned about?
T4: What barriers do you think could affect the implementation of a proficient health IT system?

CT: Closing Thoughts – Is there anything you feel is important to add to this conversation?



The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers – Richard W. Hamming

What is Big Data and Analytics?
For anyone entering the health IT space, technical terms like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics will probably seem daunting. In a nutshell, big data is collected from various points both internally and externally which is then analysed using a computerised system to find patterns and calculate outcomes or provide actionable insights. These data points could include a patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR), as discussed in a previous chat with Meditech South Africa, external points like social media (web 2.0), digital wearables, mobile applications, web 1.0 sites such as medical journals, or search engine demographic insights, implants, virtual gear, smartphone sensors, digital platforms, environmental sensors such as in smart homes or smart cities, also referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT/web 3.0).

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Another controversial term for many people is Artificial Intelligence (AI). While there are currently ongoing debates between IT giants like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg about it, the truth is that much more debate will probably still take place, especially around policy, bioethics, safety and security. John McCarthy, a professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford, was believed to be the man who coined the term “artificial intelligence” in 1955. The reason why IT companies are racing to achieve AI systems is that they have the potential to help analyse the magnitude of big data that we are expecting in a hyperconnected world, as The Medical Futurist (Dr. Bertalan Mesko) mentioned in an article. Given the volume of unstructured, siloed data in the sector now, it makes sense to understand what options are available in technology to design something meaningful.

What are the most important issues to implementing AI systems for e-Health?
As our panel expert, Prashant Natarajan writes in his book “Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning for Healthcare“, there are various issues to consider when designing a strategy which includes the 5 V’s (Velocity, Veracity, Volume, Value and Variety), as we evolve from analytics 1.0 to analytics 3.0 and a more sophisticated computing system. Effective user-input will also be a key issue to address for a precision, data-driven, smart system, therefore education and empowerment is a necessity, as is using agile, human-centered design and UX design principals that consider population dividing criteria, e.g. literacy, disability, poverty, access to ICT’s and language barriers to optimise engagement. While many people might think the developing world, especially the health sector, won’t progress in AI, it’s important to understand that economic contributors like start-ups are already evolving rapidly in Africa as mentioned in these articles, “6 artificial intelligence startups in Africa to look out for” and “Artificial Intelligence – heading for The Cloud(s) in South Africa”, the digital transformation is beginning.

Going forward, the key to designing a successful system will rely on collaborative input from all diverse stakeholders to identify gaps in health IT so that it empowers everyone using it, not only patients.


Prashant Natarajan
Big Data, Analytics and AI Expert, USA

Download the Book

Prashant Natarajan is the author of “Demystifying Big Data and Machine Learning in Healthcare” which is a #1 HIMSS 2017 Best Seller. He is also Chairperson of The Innovation Conference & Showcase ICS 2018 – HIMSS Northern California. Prashant is also the Director of Business Strategy at Oracle where his portfolio includes being a trusted advisor to customer CXOs on technology strategy, data-driven story telling, analytics RoI, and use case elicitation/discovery. Expert in AI, ML, data mining, BI & visualisation for All Data – “little” & “big.” Prashant has also written two additional publications called “Multidisciplinary Approach to Head & Neck Cancer” (ed. Dr Maie St John 2017) and “Implementing BI in your Healthcare Organization (2012)”.

His portfolio includes:
1. Oracle Healthcare Foundation: Advanced analytics, data mining, and data integration
2. Application Toolkit: Discovery and Self-Service Analytics
3. Precision Medicine: OMICS little+big data analytics; near real-time decision support
4. ML PaaS Cloud Services for pharma-provider convergence
5. Interoperability and MDM solutions

Dr. Johan Cloete (BVSc)
One Health and Wearables, South Africa

Johan was involved in a project called the GMP Traceability System which assists the South African ostrich industry to monitor for various diseases such as NCD (New Castle Disease) and AI (Avian Influenza). The same system is also pioneering the way for Bovine Brucellosis test result recording and traceability.  Many experts believe that zoonotic diseases, meaning animal data (e.g. wildlife, livestock, companion animals and birds) can be recorded using a One Health system approach, especially by the owners if pertaining to a domestic animal and that it is pertinent to human health epidemiology, especially for diseases like Hookworms, Zika, E.coli and Lyme Disease and Ebola.

Dr. Marc Slabbert
CEO – Areta Digital Hospital Group, South Africa

Dr. Slabbert is the CEO of a future healthcare service provider of integrated solutions for the next generation, focusing on geographically-agnostic evidence-based services to all patients. Areta Health (#AretaHealth) is creating a 360º Patient-Centric network of inter-connected Specialist Day Hospitals in Southern Africa, augmented with remote clinics and patient in-home monitoring.

Plans to establish 12 SDH’s within a 7 year period are well advanced. Its first license has been achieved to provide a 40 Bed, 4 Theatre facility offering Hybrid and Minimal Invasive Surgical Techniques as well as a range of specialised service propositions on the North coast of KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape, South Africa.


Join the #hcsmSA Twitter chat again on the 28th of September when we discuss Cancer in South Africa with panel experts Ceo from Campaign 4 Cancer South Africa and Breast Cancer Advocate Addi Lang from The Forever Changed Campaign.

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