Digital Health Revolution

4 December 2019

Research Australia and the BioMelbourne Network are championing a Digital Health Revolution for Australia. Embracing digital technologies provides the opportunity to improve health outcomes, promote wellbeing and a sustainable health system, but it is going to require all of us- consumers, health care providers, researchers and innovators, funders and regulators- to change.

A BioMelbourne Network event on Wednesday (4th December), sponsored by the State Government of Victoria through the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, highlighted the revolution healthcare is undergoing, and some of the barriers. Digital technologies offer a transition from a health system focused on treating illness to one focussed on staying well, but it is clear we aren’t ready?

Andrew Wiltshire from Medtronic Australia traced the development of technology from the first portable pacemaker to today’s implantable devices providing regular data feeds. Andrew highlighted some of the regulatory problems and the difficulty with finding reimbursement models for devices that are part consumer device and part medical device.

Dr. Rob Grenfell from CSIRO, a Research Australia member, highlighted the enormous potential of digital health and telehealth, but also the barriers to its take up, including poor levels of health literacy among consumers and low acceptance levels of these new technologies in our health workforce.

Dr. Elaine Sanders from Blamey Saunders described the disruptive business model behind the Blamey Saunders hearing aids, which makes the hearing aid a consumer device, fitted by the consumer and ‘trained’ by the consumer to their own requirements, without the need for an audiologist. This model empowers consumers and allows health specialists to concentrate on patients who need their intervention.

As in so many areas in modern society it seems that technology is leaping ahead, and governments and communities are struggling to keep up. With such enormous potential for better and higher quality care, it is essential that we tackle these challenges. Research Australia’s pre-budget submission is calling for investment in improving Australians’ digital health literacy to ensure we can all benefit from this coming revolution. And in reviewing its strategy, Research Australia is looking hard at how we better embed research in the health system and how upskilling our health workforce in the use of digital technologies and being ‘research aware’ can support this.

BMN is keen to further explore these critical issues and educate its membership on how these will impact how the healthcare sector operates in the future.

Written by Greg Mullins, Head of Policy, Research Australia


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