A practical guide to digital health innovation in Australia

Pulse Series: As part of the 21st Century Series on Australian Healthcare, David Pare, CTO for DXC Healthcare and Life Sciences in Australia and New Zealand, will focus each month on news, start-ups and developments within the industry — what’s happening, what’s being done to drive innovation, and what’s new or newsworthy.

The opportunity to innovate in health is gaining traction and support across Australia and New Zealand. Increasingly, I’m seeing ideas that have the potential to move the needle on important health and wellness issues — for example, improving population health outcomes, driving better patient engagement or even building innovative digital health platforms — are being given broad support.

Although I won’t pretend to be an entrepreneur, I meet a lot of start-ups that dive into health innovation without really knowing whether what they’re about to create will hit the mark. Once you have an idea that might help to advance the health ecosystem, you’ll need help in bringing it to market. As you probably know, the first step in introducing an innovative solution or process is to determine whether it already exists and, if not, whether it will have market traction. Above and beyond typical Google searches, several organisations can help you with the process, such as Health Horizon, HealthXL, StartUp Health  and Rock Health,  to name a few. Some of these are Australia-based — such as Health Horizon — while others are global.

A good example of a curated health innovation platform is Health Horizon, which created a platform to showcase digital health innovation projects, enabling members to see what’s going on in their area, share what they’re doing, watch projects progress, and find out how each project fits into a global health context. Although this platform covers all areas of health (the company uses a structured health innovation taxonomy), digital health is a growing category. Knowing what’s going on, what’s trending, where the growth areas are and where the demand lies will help you tailor your approach. You might have a good idea, but if it’s not where healthcare is headed, you’re wasting your time and resources. I know this sounds obvious, but you would be surprised at how many entrepreneurs do not take the time to do this.

State of play

Over the past 12 to 18 months, several states — New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, as well as New Zealand — have released their digital health strategy. Knowing what the states are doing and where they’re investing over the next 10 to 20 years can help guide your own strategy. A good idea is imperative, but if it is not the current investment focus of governments, your start-up will struggle to get traction and funding.

A second important step is partnership and collaboration. I know a lot of entrepreneurs won’t talk about their idea to anyone for fear of it being stolen, but history shows that more often than not, it is by sharing and getting feedback that you refine an idea to create a truly disruptive solution. Several platforms, such as the ones I’ve mentioned, don’t just help you determine what’s already out there, but also help you to make connections. HealthXL, for example, brings organisations together for digital health collaborations. Quite recent and less mature is HealthCode, a health collaboration platform (accessible through a mobile app) that puts together health innovators around the world.

The third vital step is funding. However great your idea is, if you don’t have the money to get it moving, it will remain grounded. In my travels around the country, I’ve learned in the past few months that several states and territories have established innovation funds and grants — some directly related to health initiatives, others more generally focused on innovation — that are open to applications from those working on state-focused programs. For some states, such as New South Wales and Queensland, the idea is to provide a way for innovators (small and big vendors) to propose and pilot an innovative idea faster than current procurement processes can support. Stay tuned, since public announcements of these new health innovation procurement programs should be advertised shortly.

Examples include the ACT Health Promotion Grants Program, a population-health initiative aimed at reducing obesity. Victoria’s Public Sector Innovation Fund, which provides grants of between $50,000 and $400,000, is more generally focused on innovation to solve policy and service-delivery challenges. Among these are population-health initiatives such as improving Aboriginal access to health and well-being, and improving immunisation coverage. The $10 million South Australian Early Commercialisation Fund (SAECF) provides grants of up to $500,000 that are based on a project’s feasibility and commercial potential. The state has made it a mission to become the nation’s leader in biomedical research and services for older people, with the goal of improving health outcomes and supporting economic growth.

Innovating together

Beyond state-funded programs, several others can help health innovators bring their ideas to fruition, such as the Westpac Innovation Challenge and a health technology accelerator fund from West Australian health insurer HBF, known as the HBF Activate accelerator program. There are conferences that bring health innovators together, such as HIC’s annual conference, and there are universities committed to driving health innovation through partnerships; for example, the University of South Australia’s Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) is an alliance between UniSA and SA Pathology.

Health innovation — especially as it relates to digital transformation that drives better population health outcomes and health engagement — is alive and well in Australia. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look, understanding and innovating according to needs and trends, and connecting with the right partners and funding bodies.


David Pare is the chief technology officer for DXC Healthcare and Life Sciences in Australia and New Zealand. He is an innovative thinker with 20 years of experience in business and technology management consulting, helping organisations through their digital transformation.

 

Comments

  1. I can see the the bright future how patients and medical practitioner communicate through digitization. This is possible and I am very excited with the innovation on digital health.

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