Think local, act global: career perspectives of a Health IT Professional


Who are you, where are you from, and what is your role in GHNGN?
Kia ora, my name is Parag Bhatnagar and I am from New Zealand. I’m GHNGN’s Web Manager.


How did you learn about the GHNGN?
I learned about GHNGN through Andrea Badache – a fellow participant at the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017.


What is your current job/study position?
I am currently an Analyst with the Health Intelligence team at the Auckland District Health Board in New Zealand. My role is to support the development of reporting & visualisation tools to enable Senior Management to make the right operational and strategic decisions.


What career path did you follow (bachelor, MSc, PhD…)?
I studied Engineering followed by a Master’s in Computer Science. My graduate role involved designing antennas but I soon transitioned into IT. In 2009, I joined the University of Auckland to help develop clinical databases based at Auckland Hospital. In 2014, I joined the Health Intelligence team at the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB). I’m also undertaking a part-time MHSc in Health Informatics – I don’t have a clinical background and felt the study may help bridge some of that gap.


What is your secret when it comes to applications?
No secret but when it comes to applications:

  1. I believe less is more. I don’t allow my CV to exceed 2 pages and while under the 5-10 year experience mark, I kept it at 1 page.
  2. I avoid using template CV’s and covering letters. Instead I prefer to tailor my application to the roles I apply to.
  3. I try and include clear, applicable examples, i.e. if the role demands experience with statistical analysis – I would identify what statistical software, models and techniques I have used and in what context. If I don’t have the specific experience the role requires, I’m explicit about that as well.
  4. I try and research the type of people I expect to be working with. I find that Hackathons or meet-up groups are great ways to meet industry professionals while sites like LinkedIn, Quora, etc. are useful for background research.


How does your current job/studies help you fulfill your ultimate goal/motivate you?
My work is about providing accurate, timely information to support healthcare delivery. What has kept me motivated are the daily challenges that the health information lifecycle presents and using new tools and techniques to combat them. For example, the new frontier of applying data science to contemporary healthcare problems particularly excites me.


Are you interested in something other than what you currently do?
Yes, I’m currently working on a solution to help reduce the prevalence of counterfeit drugs. The idea is to securitise the pharma supply using a private blockchain and provide assurance to the end-user about the drugs they are about to consume. The project was convened at the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017, and I’ve since learnt there is at least one other startup taking a crack at this problem using blockchain, and thus validating the idea!


What is global health for you?
About finding local solutions to global health problems. Sometimes, global solutions too. The problems that press GH are disparate and dynamic – to solve them typically requires a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach. I’ve noticed that the best GH solutions aren’t always sophisticated nor grounded in technology – they are however, always fit for purpose and often conceived iteratively.


What do you think your work as a GH professional brings to the global picture of GH?
Some of the databases I developed currently operate in more than 100 hospitals around the world. They provide 24/7 clinical decision-support across specialities like Anaesthesia, General Surgery and Gynaecology. I say this not to sound boastful but as an example of how easy it is to directly support clinicians around the world today. This certainly wasn’t possible 15 years ago. Technology has no doubt influenced the global picture of GH – the ease of developing, distributing and adopting health technology may determine how effectively we solve future GH problems.


What would you suggest a student who wants to work in GH?
Apart from the typical advice about finding a mentor, networking, etc., etc. I would strongly suggest getting involved in at least one Innovation Challenge, ideally focused on ‘Global Health’. If one isn’t happening in your area – help organise it!

Some benefits of attending an innovation challenge (or a hackathon):

  1. You’ll develop design thinking skills. Global Health problems require agile solutions. University study isn’t very agile. To make the transition, you need to develop skills around problem definition, ideation, prototyping and testing.
  2. You’ll learn how to work efficiently in a multi-disciplinary team.
  3. You will quickly appreciate what tasks you enjoy and what you don’t – this may support your career choices.
  4. You may end up with a great local solution to a global health problem. This could attract funding and/or a job to incubate your idea. At the very least it will demonstrate your skills in solving a real-world health problem.


Parag's pic

Parag Bhatnagar is a Senior Business Analyst with the Health Intelligence team at Auckland District Health Board. His interests are broadly in Global Health Informatics as applied to improving the quality of healthcare delivery.

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