Actions Across Australia Case Study – Driving Innovation

7. A thriving digital health industry delivering world-class innovation.

Below is a summary of some of the actions government, clinical, technology, industry and advocacy organisations told the Australian Digital Health Agency are already underway to deliver a thriving digital health industry delivering world-class innovation. 

Shining a light on digital health innovation

A key outcome for the National Digital Health Strategy is to foster a vibrant digital health industry in Australia, delivering world-class innovations to improve the lives of healthcare consumers and providers and to reduce unnecessary health expenditure.

Health Horizon is a website which features health innovations in Australia and globally. Supported through the MTPConnect Project Fund Program whose members include Health Informatics Society of Australia, Medical Technology Association of Australia, ANDHealth, Novartis, Medical Software Industry Association, the University of Newcastle, QUT and Hospital and Health Services IP, the site allows individuals to follow innovations, and get notified when they make progress in the future. Digital health innovations being showcased by Health Horizon include Kinetic Finger – a body-powered 3D printed finger prosthetic for finger amputees, SHUTi an online self-help program using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to help relieve insomnia, and PainChek, a smartphone-based facial recognition system (the world’s first) that enables patients with dementia to report their pain levels.

Accenture's Healthcare 2020 initiative is a global community of practice that innovates, educates and collaborates. At its core it tracks the leading health startups globally and engages with the leading research and development, driving much of their thought leadership and Point of View development.

The Health Informatics Society of Australia’s annual Australian Telehealth Conference showcases advances in virtual and connected care including supplementary technology like artificial intelligence, wearables, robotics, mobile applications and 3D printing. 

Direct digital health industry support is being provided by the ANDHealth+ program, by providing mid-stage digital health companies with support from proven experts to undertake a significant piece of work focused on securing the clinical or commercial evidence needed to support the raising of growth capital and to progress market entry strategies. In addition, the Australian Government's $35 million BioMedTech Horizons program (delivered by MTPConnect) is an initiative to support innovative collaborative health technologies, drive discoveries towards proof-of-concept and commercialisation that address key health challenges as well as maximise entrepreneurship and idea potential.

Fostering an environment of digital health innovation

Government’s role in the delivery of a thriving digital health industry is to support industry and innovators to foster an agile and self- improving health system that is sustainable. State and territory governments are helping to foster a climate of digital health innovation through a range of initiatives. Queensland Health is tackling the funding and organisational structures that get in the way to better prevent and detect health issues by administering the Integrated Care Innovation Fund (ICIF), which is designed to help fuel better practices at all levels of the health system. Queensland Health also collaborates with Johnson & Johnson to award prize money to help fund healthcare research with high potential for commercialisation. 

The Western Australian Government is commencing work on a hackathon guideline to assist staff and stakeholders interested in hosting hackathons to develop innovative solutions to local problems. The state is also Embedding an enterprise Architecture practice, which will facilitate the development of business, information, applications and technology roadmaps, plus a set of guidelines and standards for the Western Australian health system.  

NSW Health is continuing to host regular Industry Partnership Summits with universities, ICT suppliers, clinicians and researchers, and collaborating with industry to pilot solutions to address health system challenges. ACT Health’s Digital Solution Division is being represented in the Small Business Innovation Partnerships Program, which aims to promote opportunities for small business in the ACT. Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services is participating as an Industry Partner in the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) which focuses on improving the health and healthcare of Australians and advancing the economy through collaborative research and development that combines clinical expertise, data and information and telecommunications technologies.

The ACT Government is developing an Enterprise Research Platform to drive evidence based practice improvement and innovation in health and care.  The platform will provide access to appropriate research data and remove barriers to research based innovation. The Northern Territory Government is developing a Digital Territory Strategy to identify the objectives and priorities for digital services over the next five years and outline a roadmap of actions to achieve the objectives. The strategy will create the framework to promote and enable digital capabilities for Territory businesses and citizens that will improve communities, create jobs, grow the economy, and develop Territorians’ knowledge and attitudes about health and their ability to participate in their own healthcare.

Reshaping how we deliver health and care

A thriving, innovative Australian digital health industry will provide Australian consumers and providers with cutting-edge digital health solutions to make their healthcare interactions safer, more convenient, and more efficient. New services and new efficiencies have the potential to have an enormous impact both economically and on overall quality of life.

Consumers will be empowered to manage their symptoms or care in their own homes thanks to the work that Telstra Health is doing with care providers to support digital health technology through a mobile workforce and arthritis sufferers will be able to use MyBackPain, an online website which is currently being evaluated by Arthritis Australia as part of a randomized control trial to assess the effectiveness of using intelligent algorithms to provide tailored information for people with acute and chronic back pain.   

ID Exchange Pty Ltd in Partnership with Ltd are collaborating to empower individuals with their health data using's unique personal data platform. This platform aggregates and normalised the data, which in turn enables consumers to use this data with third parties such as healthcare providers, apps and services.  Foresight Health Care has combined mobile health coaching software, health monitoring devices, with clinical health coaches to create a complete data driven, clinical self-management and health improvement system for people suffering chronic disease.

Apple has introduced a significant update to their Health app with the iOS 11.3 beta, with a feature for customers to see their medical records on their iPhone. The updated Health Records section within the Health app brings together hospitals, clinics and the existing Health app to make it easy for consumers to see their available medical data from multiple providers whenever they choose. The My Health Record is part of the Australian digital health infrastructure that Apple’s Health app and others draw upon and interact with. 

The market for health and wellness apps is already blossoming, the challenge is how clinicians and consumers will know which apps will have the functionality, security and privacy they expect. VicHealth have launched a consumer-oriented guide to health and wellbeing apps, based on the MARS Mobile App Rating Scale. Primary Health Tasmania have commissioned a health app guide for clinicians that will enable them to “prescribe” digital health solutions best suited to their patients. Queensland Health is commissioning a pilot program to evaluate mobile health smartphone applications for their clinical functionality, content, usability, cybersecurity and interoperability considerations through the Queensland Policy and Advisory Committee for new Technology (QPACT).

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), in keeping with its remit in regulating medical devices, is undertaking a number of projects that protect consumers by treating health apps as de facto medical devices, and developing regulations to ensure their security and fitness for purpose. The TGA has provided advice about a suite of defensive measures that medical device sponsors and asset owners can perform to reduce the risk of hacking and other types of cyber-attacks. 

Ensuring inclusiveness so all Australians benefit from digital health

Digital inclusion features prominently in this framework to ensure that all Australians will have access to the coming wave of digital health technologies. One organisation that has assumed a prominent role in Australia’s digital inclusion efforts is the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), who represent local libraries around Australia. ALIA was one of the first members of the Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance which was launched in August 2017. ALIA’s digital inclusion programs include initiatives to promote digital literacy for older Australians and to remote regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Queensland.

Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA) regularly consults with Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to better understand barriers to digital inclusion and best practice design principles and reports on these outcomes. This includes an understanding of diversity within CALD communities and the additional barriers - and opportunities - of digital health for women, LGBTIQ, rural and regional, older, younger and (dis)abled CALD Australians.

The first Australian Digital Inclusion Index was released in 2016, as a joint venture between Telstra, RMIT University and the Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University, powered by Roy Morgan Research. The index helps identify the barriers to digital inclusion and the impact on communities.

The ACT Government is working with the CSIRO and Data 61 to undertake studies aimed at enhancing digital literacy, and the Tasmanian Government is developing the Healthy Tasmania Portal, which includes community activities and educational resources as a “one stop shop” for preventative health information and to improve digital literacy and ensure inclusiveness. The Portal includes a toolkit of educational resources to guide preventative health activity that could be used by Neighbourhood Houses, Community Health Centres, Child and Family Centres, GPs, seniors groups and other community organisations. In addition, it links to resources provided through the Department’s Healthy Kids Tasmania and LiveLighter initiatives.

The Victorian Government is continuing to enhance the Better Health Channel which is a consumer portal allowing for personalisation and behaviour change tools. The site is one of the most popular health and medical websites in Australia with over two million unique visitors each month. It has received many awards, including being ranked the number one health and medical website in Australia.

Read more - National Digital Health Strategy Activities