National Health and Research Strategy hailed as milestone for future healthcare delivery


The announcement of a National Health and Research Strategy represents a critical milestone that will help shape the delivery of healthcare for future generations, according to the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC).

A national approach to health and medical research has been long been identified by the health and medical research sector as necessary to facilitate strategic coordination to innovation and research priorities to meet Australia’s health needs. A national strategy was a key recommendation of the McKeon Review in 2013 to maintain a world-best health system.

The Federal Government has shown a strong commitment to investing in the future of healthcare. The recently released Medical Science Co-Investment Plan, committed up to $1.5 billion to medical manufacturing in Australia. There was also close to $1 billion investment in digital health in the last Federal Budget, and the $392m Industry Growth Program was announced late last year to support small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups to commercialise their ideas.

DHCRC CEO Annette Schmiede said it was pleasing to see healthcare, research and digital health coming to the forefront in terms of the Federal Government’s agenda.

“During COVID we saw more than a decade worth of innovation occur across the healthcare sector in less than two years,” Ms Schmiede said. “There is now a unique opportunity to double down on that innovation and deliver more personalised, connected and effective care for all Australians.”

“Let’s be ambitious in our thinking. Leadership from a federal level is critical to align our currently fragmented healthcare sector with a national strategy that offers a roadmap for success and to ensure the funding committed delivers in transforming our healthcare sector.”

In announcing the National Strategy, the Hon Mark Butler, Minister for Health and Aged Care, called out health and medical research as a critical enabler for future-proofing the healthcare sector.

Australia’s health and medical research is an outperforming sector – health science research in Australia is ranked 7th globally, and Australia is ranked 5th in the World Index of Healthcare Innovation. However, the translation of research into commercial products is limited.

“Research is absolutely critical but what we see is too much of that research not resulting in tangible outcomes for the health sector,” Ms Schmiede said. “We have seen this first-hand across many of our research projects, the difficulty in translating proof of concept into real world outputs.”

“Australia is missing opportunities to capitalise on our world-leading research and improve health outcome. There isn’t an issue with the quality or quantity of research that Australian universities are producing, but rather the issue we face is gaining widespread adoption of research outcomes through translation and commercialisation.

“A national strategy, along with the recently announced Co-Investment Plan and previously committed funding, is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to address this and bring researchers together with technology providers and industry to create practical applications and adopt priority research outcomes.

The DHCRC coordinates a range of research projects that are connecting the technology sector with the healthcare industry and researchers. Individually, these are often ground-breaking initiatives that span the broad spectrum of digital health, when viewed together, these projects provide insight into the trends and issues affecting the health sector and how they can be sustainably implemented.

“Our experience from research initiatives shows first-hand that what is really needed to scale up and provide Australia with truly sovereign national capabilities is a long-term strategic investment in digital health infrastructure and regulation,” Ms Schmiede said.

“The DHCRC has five years of evidence-based research that can inform where investment in research and digital health is best directed to avoid wasting this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

“We look forward to consulting on the national strategy to help inform the must-have priorities that investment in digital health requires to capitalise on this once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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