Australia’s healthcare industry and government stakeholders need to focus on four key areas – technology development, regulation, investment and implementation – to stimulate a thriving digital health industry. 
 
A report released by digital business health accelerator ANDHealth, Digital Health: Creating a New Growth Industry for Australia, outlined these as next steps needed to create a cohesive and collaborative digital health industry.
 
ANDHealth CEO Bronwyn Le Grice said that with the global digital health market expected to reach US$206 billion by 2020, driven by the mobile and wireless health market, Australia needs to pursue innovation in technology, such as AI, immersive simulation, big data and IoT.
 
And in order to fully realise the industry’s full potential, there needs to be in place an integrated ecosystem that supports the growth and establishment of the industry.
 
The report highlighted the significant investment to date by all levels of government in developing core components of the national health and health technology infrastructure, including supply chain interoperability, terminology standards, health identifiers and data repositories, such as the My Health Record system. 
 
But it identified that for fit-for-purpose regulation, reimbursement and procurement practices and
supportive public policies, strong infrastructure is needed to contribute to a viable platform for digital health technology commercialisation and implementation. 
 
“Australia is ready to take the next step in creating a cohesive and collaborative digital health industry. Australia is considered a global leader in health and medical research. We’re also early adopters of new technology and have an abundance of innovative ideas,” Le Grice said.
 
“These are the key ingredients needed to nurture commercially viable and resilient fast-growth companies in emerging sectors, like digital health.
 
“However, in order to succeed, there needs to be widespread understanding that the digital health sector goes beyond health information technology and infrastructure, and that digital health is not a subset of the medical devices sector,” she said. 
 
 
The report also recommended six steps for the healthcare industry:
  • Recognise that digital health is a sector, which sits alongside traditional bio-pharmaceutical/life sciences and medical devices, and is a key driver of both health and economic outcomes for Australia in the future.
  • Support and incentivise industry-led innovation support programs to provide innovators with access to professionals and advisors with demonstrable track records of success throughout the commercialisation pathway.
  • Address challenges relating to access to capital to retain equity and foster company growth within Australia until later in the company lifecycle.
  • Leverage investment in national infrastructure and facilitate access to it for innovators, technology developers and growth companies, in a structured way.
  • Act to implement necessary changes to the broader healthcare environment, specifically with respect to regulation, reimbursement and procurement.
  • Recognise the need for specialised expertise to support digital health companies to develop their international commercialisation plans and identify and support programs that provide this.
MTPConnect CEO Dr Dan Grant said these steps aim to influence the direction of the future of the Australian digital health environment.
 
“There’s no doubt that a fully fledged Australian digital health industry can be a key driver of both health and economic outcomes for Australia,” Dr Grant said.
 
“With the right incentives in place, improved access to capital and development of adaptive regulatory frameworks, we can realise our potential as a global digital health leader.”
 
The ANDHealth report was prepared in collaboration with industry partners including CSIRO, the Australian Digital Health Agency and MTPConnect.
 

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