Driving Digital Health: Enhancing Lives through Implementation Research

Posted on 22.05.2024

As a DDEA Visiting Researcher, Professor Brian Oldenburg hopes to advance digital health implementation research to benefit people with chronic conditions.

How do we implement digital solutions to improve the lives of people with long-term conditions?

This is the central question behind Australian Professor Brian Oldenburg’s research programme. He hopes to answer it in part via his DDEA Visiting Researcher grant.

“In Australia, I lead a research programme aimed at improving the implementation of digital health solutions for individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiometabolic conditions. I hope to be able to extend this work to Denmark,” says Professor Brian Oldenburg.

Professor Oldenburg’s Visiting Researcher project is conducted in collaboration with Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen.

An Opportunity for International Collaboration

Professor Brian Oldenburg is an expert in behavioural medicine and implementation. He is the director of the Academic and Research Collaborative in Health (ARCH) at La Trobe University, Australia. He holds a joint position as professor of public health and implementation science at La Trobe University and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia.

In recent years, Danish researchers have visited Melbourne to learn more about Brian Oldenburg’s initiatives. So, when the opportunity arose to obtain a DDEA Visiting Researcher grant, he was encouraged to apply.

“We believed that our research could also greatly benefit early to mid-career researchers in Denmark, prompting the idea to develop a programme that is similar to the Australian National Centre of Research Excellence in Digital Technology to Transform Chronic Disease Outcomes, funded by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. I had the opportunity to visit Denmark for a short period, spending two weeks there late last year, 2023. During this visit, we began to refine the details of the programme,” explains Professor Oldenburg.

Navigating Different Healthcare Systems

Professor Oldenburg is interested in investigating the opportunities of implementing the use of apps and digital health programmes to improve diabetes management in Denmark. This idea was especially brought on by the differences between Danish and Australian health systems.

“The Danish health system seems a more public-oriented healthcare system and a more coordinated system than is the case in Australia. In Australia, the healthcare system is a complex mix of both public and private services, which means that coordinating implementation can be quite challenging because there is not one single system to work with,” Professor Oldenburg says.

“Another different thing is that you have the Steno Diabetes Centres in different regions of Denmark. This provides a critical mass of researchers collaborating with health professionals who are researching different aspects of diabetes, such as the psychosocial impacts of diabetes and the use of apps in diabetes management,” he continues.

Exchanging Expertise across Borders

Regardless of differences in health systems, there are many possible benefits to increasing international collaboration in healthcare research, and Professor Brian Oldenburg is sure to bring his own experience and expertise from Australia to Denmark.

“At the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and La Trobe University, my team and I focus on implementation research. The challenge is not so much to develop new apps or programmes – it is much more about doing a better job of implementing existing digital health solutions and technology. When it comes to people with chronic conditions, health professionals are great at providing recommendations to them and their carers about what to do, but not always about how to follow them. They can give advice on medication, healthy diet, exercise, and so on, but not about how people can do these things in in their daily lives. We need to figure out the ‘how’ of bringing the kind of apps that people with diabetes find helpful into mainstream healthcare. This is not just relevant for Denmark or Australia, but for many countries and health systems,” explains Professor Oldenburg.

“Right now, we are in the process of refining our plan for my DDEA Visiting Researcher grant. I understand that the Steno Diabetes Centres in Copenhagen are already planning to transition their diabetes clinics and management programs to virtual platforms. Our research could provide valuable insights for implementing such changes, given that such transitions to virtual care and telehealth are becoming increasingly common around the world,” says Professor Oldenburg.

Visiting Denmark

As part of his DDEA Visiting Researcher project, Professor Brian Oldenburg is visiting Denmark in May and June. Brian Oldenburg already has several ideas in mind for research projects and workshops during his visit.

“Hopefully, one of the outputs will be to stimulate more interest among emerging researchers in digital health and technology implementation, as well as provide them with the necessary training and mentoring. This could involve workshops and joint projects. Additionally, developing guidelines for these activities could prove beneficial, as they will be contextualised to real-world scenarios,” says Professor Oldenburg.

“I also have very good international collaborations in Europe and other parts of the world. Bringing more people into the research, training sessions, and workshops is something I am also planning to do more of during my visit,” Professor Brian Oldenburg says.

Read more about Professor Brian Oldenburg and view his expert talk ‘Digital Innovations in Diabetes Care’.

Are you curious to learn more about our DDEA Visiting Researchers, their newest research projects, and the impact they are making in Denmark and beyond?

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Contact Information

Professor Brian Oldenburg
Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute & La Trobe University

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