A research team at Flinders University will start building what could be the first integrated and AI-driven public health and clinical data repository in Australia for public health surveillance and emergency response.

Called SMART-PH (Digitising Information for Practice in Public Health), the data platform will act as a common digital infrastructure that enables near real-time collaboration and communication among public health authorities, healthcare institutions, and laboratories. 

From July, researchers will create a public health data lake which will then be initially integrated with SA Health’s Digital Analytics Platform. The data platform from South Australia reportedly has real-time advanced data linkage capabilities to all clinical data, including EMRs. 

SMART-PH has been backed by almost A$3 million ($2 million) in funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. The research team targets its implementation and evaluation with South Australian partners between 2027 and 2029. 


Tapping into real-time, high-quality public health data is crucial in planning and managing public health and healthcare. However, data remains siloed across facilities, the Flinders researchers noted.

“Limited access to real-time, high-quality public health data is creating barriers against effective planning and management of healthcare and public health issues particularly in remote and rural regions,” stressed Courtney Ryder, research lead and associate professor and Injury Studies head at Flinder’s College of Medicine and Public Health.

Since AI has been proven to enable real-time public health data access during the recent pandemic, the research team intends to employ it to build a public health framework that allows public health stakeholders to be more efficient, agile, and effective in their response. 

AI, they said, can potentially enhance the forecasting, planning and strategic decision-making in public health response, as well as improve surveillance and outbreak detection. 


The secure sharing and reusing of data and information across the health system is one of the four key target outcomes in Australia’s Digital Health Blueprint for the next 10 years. Initiatives outlined in realising this target include the development of a national legislative framework on health information sharing in states and territories and the continued modernisation of My Health Record

Accessible data and data that inform critical decision-making at the individual, community and national levels are also targeted outcomes of the government’s updated National Digital Health Strategy 2023-2028. To meet this goal, one priority action is to use health information for research and public health purposes.

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