SOCIAL NETWORK RESEARCH IN HEALTH COULD OPEN THE DOOR FOR SIGNIFICANT SAVINGS
The health industry consumes vast amounts of money and resources and is seen as a “black-hole” in many Government budgets. A ground breaking study using new science could save the industry millions and point the way for future research.Dr Shahadat Uddin and Professor Liaquat Hossain’s paper, “Social networks enabled coordination model for cost management of patient hospital admissions,” has been broadly recognised as a work of true originality and considerable importance to the health insurance industry. Shahadat won the faculty of IT and Engineering’s research excellence award at the University of Sydney, in recognition of his outstanding research achievements. His study uses social networks to investigate the interplay of patient, physician and hospital during patient hospitalisation and the costs associated with this. Social network theory uses data mining techniques to identify behavioural patterns within data sets involving human interactions. There are only a handful of universities around the world that have active research projects to identify behavioural patterns and Uddin’s research is the first in the health cost area. As the ground breaker in his field he had a great opportunity but also a dilemma. There were no previous research papers in this field to consult, which made his research very challenging but it also allowed him the freedom of not being constrained by the views of others. Uddin’s research found that the cost effectiveness of hospital care is mediated by socio-demographic factors such as patent sex and age, hospital locality (urban, rural, and CBD), hospital type (like public versus private) and social networks which are formed around patient-doctor care structures. In particular, the research exam- ined data for total hip replacement operations from a prominent Australian health insurance company and the results show that network positions (the relative positions to others in the network) of patient, physician and hospital have a significant effect on the total expenses of that hospital.