Global health data is doubling in size every 75 days. Health data science has the power to transform this data deluge into innovative healthcare solutions.

Today, health data is measured in trillions of gigabytes. Our health systems are undergoing a digital revolution, which has enabled us to collect more data than ever before. But with this acceleration in big data collection, we’re struggling to keep pace with managing and using that data effectively. 

Health data scientists have the technical skills to make sense of these enormous datasets and draw valuable insights from this information. At UNSW, we offer a suite of postgraduate health data science programs - the first of their kind in Australasia - that’ll position you as a leader within this rapidly expanding field. If you’re ready to pursue a career with impact, we’ll empower you to make a difference.

What is health data science?

Big data is a term used to describe datasets that are so large and complex, they can’t be managed or analysed using traditional methods. In health, big data includes the millions of records that are routinely generated by:

  • health services

  • real-time clinical data captured at the point-of-care

  • genomic data produced in research and clinical settings

  • health-related data generated by the population at large through technologies such as wearable devices and social media.

Big data holds the answers to many of the world’s most pressing health challenges. Health data science is the key to unlocking these data-driven solutions to better support clinical care, inform health policy and improve population health. It’s an interdisciplinary field, which draws knowledge from biostatistics, computer science and health.

“As a graduate, you’ll contribute to extracting crucial knowledge and insights from health big data to inform clinical care and health policy decisions. We’re committed to helping you develop the knowledge, skills and values necessary to make a difference."

Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic
Dean, UNSW Medicine & Health

How is data science shaping healthcare?

Big data analytics plays a key role in optimising health systems, services and outcomes. Practitioners need accurate patient data to make well-informed decisions and provide high-quality care. Health data scientists enable this by collecting vast amounts of data and making this information readily available to healthcare professionals.

Data has a significant impact on how we prevent, treat and cure disease. Data analysis tools can scale human expertise to detect patterns across populations, predict outbreaks of epidemics, measure the effectiveness of healthcare and identify shortfalls in care models.

In doing so, healthcare analytics can reduce the incidence of preventable diseases, lower the costs of treatment and improve health outcomes across communities.

Data science technologies are accelerating breakthroughs in biomedical research by collecting data at an unprecedented rate. These tools expedite the data analysis process, allowing researchers to find data-driven solutions at a faster pace.

For example, machine learning algorithms can predict whether a medication is going to have the desired effect on the human body, which reduces the time and costs involved in drug development.

“One of the great things about health data science is that it can be applied basically anywhere - from understanding efficacy and excellence of clinical care, all the way through to operations and performance management.”

Dr Ian Opperman
Chief Data Scientist, NSW Government

What does a health data scientist do?

Health data science is a relatively new career path that’s constantly evolving and creating new roles. There’s a growing demand within public and private health sectors for professionals with interdisciplinary skills in health data science.

The role of a health data scientist can span multiple stages of the data science pipeline, which is a series of processes that converts raw data into valuable insights. The health data science pipeline includes context, data management and wrangling, machine learning and data mining, data analytics, data modelling and communication. A health data scientist may be involved in:

  • designing & leading research studies or evaluations

  • conducting complex data analyses

  • managing teams of data analysts

  • advising stakeholders on healthcare analytics.

Health data scientists generally need to be proficient in a variety of programming languages such as R and Python. This profession may also require technical skills in artificial intelligence, deep learning, algorithms, visualisation, cybersecurity and statistical modelling. Health data scientists need to be excellent communicators to ensure that stakeholders understand what the data means and how it can be used to support decision-making.

Our graduates have pursued roles in government departments of health (national, state and local), hospitals, health services, universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies, health and technology organisations, health insurance companies and private data analytics consultancies.

“Through the Graduate Certificate in Health Data Science, I was able to bridge the knowledge gap between my current role and the role of my boss.”

Narelle Hinkley, UNSW Alumna
Service Improvement & Innovation Lead, Monash Health

Explore your study options

Our health data science programs are delivered by the Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH). The CBDRH is Australia's first research centre dedicated to health research using large-scale electronic data that spans the biomedical, clinical, health services and public health domains. Join a community that's transforming data into practical health solutions to improve life for all.

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 Launch your career in health data science

If you have any questions about studying health data science or UNSW in general, please contact us below. Our Future Student Advisers are here to help.