Jim Warren

Jim Warren, Professor of Health Informatics

I am based at the Department of Computer Science on the City (main) campus in downtown Auckland. I work closely with the School of Population Health at Tamaki Campus, particularly with the Department of General Practice and Primary Healthcare, the Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI).

My key professional interest is the transformation of healthcare through innovative IT. This includes decision support for individual healthcare providers, analysis of population health data to guide high level health strategy and research, and supporting health consumers to do their best in 'co-production' of health outcomes with traditional providers (i.e. doctors, nurses and the like). From a technology perspective, enabling these transformations is largely about applied AI, but very much linked with a holistic information systems perspective and great user interface design; plus there are some topics that are particularly relevant to health IT in practice, such as systems interoperability. I'm passionate about getting talented computing people really interested in the challenges and opportunities of health IT; I also really enjoy working with clinical people to understand and try to improve health delivery challenges. I have a particular interest in the challenge of achieving 'adherence' to long-term medications... most of us don't take our regular medications very regularly; improving this requires a systems response involving both providers and consumers.

See about new scholarship opportunities in e-therapy for youth!

Hear me, see me

Here are links to a couple of fairly extended lectures I've given in recent times on areas of greatest interest to me:

Coursework

Computer Science / Software Engineering. I'm lecturing in two courses for 2018:

Health Informatics at The University of Auckland. For several years I was programme director for the Postgraduate Diploma in Health Sciences in Health Informatics, which can extend to a Master of Health Sciences. There is also the option to stop with a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences (Health Informatics). In the postgraduate programme I taught HLTHINFO 728 Principles of Health Informatics and HLTHINFO 730 Healthcare Decision Support Systems. Note that Honours and Postgraduate Diploma students in Computer Science and Software Engineering can get permission to take select Health Informatics postgraduate courses. Although I'm not teaching the main courses this year, I'm still available to supervise research students from either Health or Computing backgrounds (and those with mixed backgrounds are most especially welcome!). The School of Population Health also has a third year elective in Health Informatics for students in the Bachelor of Health Sciences.

Research

My research goal is to achieve measurable improvements in health outcomes through innovation in health information technology.

My research is focused on three (sometimes inter-related) aspects of innovative use of IT for chronic disease management:

In 2016 I gave a talk as part of the Gibbons lecture series that overviews a range of aspects in how I approach use of IT to improve chronic condition management.

My active research at present breaks down into two main areas. First, I work closely with the VIEW group on cardiovascular risk management data. I'm particularly interested in the problem of medication adherence in this context (people taking their medication regularly), and generally in how we can data mine routinely-collected records to see more or less effective chronic disease management.

The other main area of project work is around systems that are operated directly by health consumers, particularly in the space of mental health and healthy lifestyle. One major project in this is eCHAT, a screening tool that asks about a range of issues (alcohol and drug misuse, anxiety, depression and others) that can be used in General Practice or for specific groups including young people or veterans. A larger project, HABITS, looks at integrating eCHAT screening with a suite of online therapy tools particularly for young people in New Zealand.

I'm always interested in good students for project, dissertation and thesis work that relates to this research agenda. That said, at the moment I'm near to the limit on number of PhD students I can take on - so, sorry, but I will be quite choosy about students and topics, since it's a long-term commitment for both of us. In particular, right now I have as many Machine Learning / Data Mining students as I can handle. Where I'm interested to expand within my remaining supervision capacity is in the mental health and wellness space, including development of tools that apply Motivational Interviewing or provide support for specific issues including beating addiction and for supporting parents, including parents of children with autism. If you do wish to contact me about research study, explain to me what specific preparation you've had and just what sort of Health Informatics research you're keen to do. If I feel I'm looking at a generic letter sent to dragnet for a research supervisor, I probably won't reply.

We currently have two Masters Scholarships in IT, $13000 stipend, available for 2018. These scholarships are for thesis work to enhance our youth e-therapy IT platform for the Health Advances through Behavioural Intervention Technology Systems (HABITS) project. See HABITS masters scholarships details.

A note to international students thinking about a PhD. If you're thinking about doing a PhD under my supervision, before opening a dialogue please reflect on whether and how you would finance your studies. Please do not go down this path if you have only a vague or optimistic lead on financial support. The University of Auckland has a very limited number of scholarships for international students. International students will only be considered for these (and, at that, supply is limited) where the Grade Point Equivalence (GPE) is estimated by the University's School of Graduate Studies at around 8.0 or greater (we use a scale where A+ is 9, A is 8, A- is 7, B+ is 6, etc.) for the degree which qualifies the student for PhD studies and weighted for the relative standing of the awarding institution as compared to University of Auckland. So if your institution is rated under University of Auckland or you received less than near-perfect marks, a scholarship from the University is not going to happen. Moreover, cost of living (especially accommodation) in Auckland is high, and it isn't possible to earn a living wage while studying full-time. You'll need some external financial support.

For domestic students, if you have a GPA of 8+ you'll be offered a scholarship.

These are some of the PhD students who have graduated with me since I've moved to Auckland

Some of my (more distant) past PhD students:


Projects and Groups I'm Involved With

Vascular Informatics using Epidemiology and the Web (VIEW). I'm one of the team of investigators in VIEW, an HRC-funded research programme led by Prof Rod Jackson. VIEW aims to create a comprehensive map of cardiovascular (or, somewhat more broadly arteriosclerotic) risk management for all of New Zealand. It has a GIS mapping component, and intervention components: the PREDICT clinical decision support tool (see publications) aimed particularly at prevention in the community / general practice setting, and the acute coronary syndrome (ACS) register aimed at the hospital sector. I'm particularly involved in the application of data mining techniques on the VIEW collection to improve the identification individuals with a high risk of potentially-preventable hospitalisation, as well as questions of how to formulate the data schema for maximum ethical public-good reuse of the data.

HABITS (Health Advances through Behaviours Intervention Technology Systems)This is a project of the A Better Start — E Tipu e Rea National Science Challenge. Our aim is to make online support for mental health and wellness a routine part of the secondary school experience, especially for youth who are most at risk including those at low-decile schools and Māori and Pacific youth. We are developing a suite on e-therapy tools, integrated with a portal and screening / assessment tools. My main responsibility is design of the IT platform that integrates all the tools and provides the user experience for young people as well as school staff, and mechanisms for informed consent and randomisation for research trials and de-identified research data.

eCHAT (the electronic Case-finding and Help Assessment Tool). I've been working with Prof Felicity Goodyear-Smith for a number of years on this tool that allows an individual to answer a series of simple questions that provide an assessment of a range of lifestyle and mental health issues. This was designed to be used at the GP (family doctor) practice in the first instance, but we've been finding a number of specialised applications including for young people, veterans and in maternity.

Australasian Workshop on Health Informatics and Knowledge Management (HIKM) at Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW). I helped create this workshop and have co-Chaired it on multiple ocassions. This is a great event because on the one hand it's a small workshop to share experiences of innovative computing solutions as applied to healthcare, and on the other hand it's a diverse computing event across the spectrum of Computer Science in Australia and New Zealand with a host of plenary speakers. The 2018 HIKM is in Brisbane. Paper submissions are generally due around August each year.

Health Informatics New Zealand (HINZ). I was Chair of HINZ for 2008-2010. I was Scientific Program Committee Chair for the HINZ Conference and Exhibition 2006, 2007 and 2008. The conference is an amazingly large event given the size of New Zealand – it's the place to find out what's happening in health IT in New Zealand and gets some great keynote speakers from abroad. See the HINZ conference page.

Australian College for Health Informatics (AHCI). I'm a Foundation Fellow of, and was the Membership Chair from 2005-2010 for, Australia and New Zealand's peak professional body for health informatics. In 2015-2016 I was a member of the ACHI Council.

Biomedical Informatics group of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI). The aim of this group is to link clinical information and workflows to computational models and tools, in order to bring about personalised, predictive and quantitative approaches to Biomedicine and to pave the way for new breakthroughs and the coming of next generation clinical decision support tools and new technologies. I'm a collaborator with this group.


My Career

I took up the Chair in Health Informatics at the University of Auckland in November 2005. I made the move here because the environment provides the opportunity to really make a difference - there are so many advantages here with a world class medical school, excellent computer science department, active local health IT industry and a proactive Ministry of Health! The School of Population Health at the Tamaki Campus provides a particularly stimulating and helpful setting combining General Practice, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the National Institute for Health Innovation (formerly the Clinical Trials Research Unit), Health Systems, Maori and Pacific Health, and Social and Community Health, as well as onsite clinics.

I worked for the University of South Australia from 1993 to 2005, where I was involved in the formation of their Advanced Computing Research Centre, of which I was Director for a couple years.

I did my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and PhD in Information Systems at the University of Maryland's UMBC campus. I was awarded my PhD in mid 1992 with a dissertation (which they'd call a 'thesis' in this part of the world) in Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) / Simulation Systems... basically I was looking at interactive decision support technology. I started working with health IT as software development consulting work before completing my PhD, but then leapt into it as a research topic pretty much the day I graduated. Other than a few computer simulation projects that directly related to my thesis, and ocassional flirtation with online learning research and pure human-computer interaction, I've consolidated on innovative methods for health information systems as my sole research interest. Upon involvement with SA HealthPlus - a large trial of Coordinated Care in 1997-1999 - I became increasingly focused on chronic condition management (CCM). "IT for chronic condition management" is a pretty good brief description of my interests.


Publications

I've set up a Google Scholar profile so you can reach many of my publications online.


Contact details


Last updated: J. Warren, 15-Dec-2017.