ANDHealth CEO, Bronwyn Le Grice, commented, “ANDHealth welcomes the Federal budget which delivers a breadth of policy initiatives from the critical Digital Economy Strategy to My Health Record, from Women’s Economic Security to Cybersecurity and an almost unprecedented investment in health initiatives.”
As the founder of ANDHealth, she also welcomed the boosting of funding for the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.
"As a female founded organisation ourselves with a strong focus on encouraging and supporting female founders and executives within our programs, we welcome the commitment to continuing and expanding this critical funding to address systemic gender inequities and encourage greater participation of women in STEM.”
Below are some of the key budget initiatives which are likely to have a direct impact on Australia’s digital health sector.
Digital Economy Strategy
The investment in the Digital Economy Strategy of $1.2 billion over six years - launched last week by Prime Minister Scott Morrison MP and Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy Jane Hume MP at ANDHealth+ cohort company Seer Medical’s offices - emphasises the importance of digital technologies in creating a future-proof Australia and specifically the role that digital health technologies play in revolutionising the way healthcare is delivered.
ANDHealth welcomes the breadth of investment in the health sector, particularly in aged care, mental health and primary care, and in research and technology necessary to build Australia’s nascent digital health industry.
Digital health is already playing a critical role in healthcare and has proved to be effective in delivering a range of benefits to patients, doctors and the healthcare system. There remains, however, a huge gap between our current system and a healthcare system that is truly integrated, asynchronous, data driven and a patient-centric digital health system.
Digital health technologies go beyond electronic medical records and critical connectivity and infrastructure into digital medicine and digital therapeutics. These technologies represent the cutting edge of medical product development, meeting stringent clinical and commercial requirements before being placed in the hands of patients and healthcare providers.
"These technologies will form the foundation of a truly modern healthcare system, providing care to those who need it, whenever they need it, wherever they are," said Ms Le Grice.
Essential investment to support the health of our senior Australians is welcome: support to stay at home ($7.5 billion); improved safety and quality in residential aged care ($7.8 billion); funding for Primary Health Networks that includes telehealth, out of hours support, and dementia pathways to support assessment and referral ($202.3 million).
Aged care is a significant market for many digital health technology companies and acknowledging the role of these technologies will help to transform the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
The allocation of $111.2 million to provide digital services for mental health, including the creation of a world-class, single digital platform, is much needed and a recognition of the potential for digital technologies to tackle the challenges of improving the mental health of Australians who are at risk.
Further investment in telehealth ($204.6 million, bringing the total to date to $3.6 billion) reflects the increased acceptance and uptake by clinicians and consumers of digital health services, spurred on by the COVID pandemic.
Telehealth is a critical platform for connecting with more sophisticated remote patient management technologies which support the prevention, diagnoses and treatment of health conditions via digital medicine and digital therapeutics technologies
Ms Le Grice said, "ANDHealth welcomes the extension to the reimbursement of telehealth within the budget, however we encourage the Government to take further steps to make universal access to telehealth a permanent feature of our healthcare system."
The investment into ensuring a more coordinated healthcare future and interoperability across the sector through My Health Record ($301.8 million) and the International Agreement on National Digital Health ($32.3 million) is critical to Australians receiving the benefits of a connected health system.
The continued investment in medical research with the allocation of $2.4 billion to the Medical Research Future Fund and $3.6 billion to the National Health and Medical Research Council will drive world-leading research, leading to improvements in health outcomes for Australians as well as creating jobs and economic growth.
Funding of $500 million to the Biomedical Translation Fund will allow the venture capital community to continue to invest in health and medical research technology that requires five to ten years’ investment to meet Australia’s high ethical and safety standards.
Patent Box tax concessions that will encourage health and medical innovation and Australian IP to be developed onshore are a significant step forward in improving the international competitiveness of Australia as a destination for medical and biotechnology product development.
The Government has pledged $206.4 million to this ‘patent box’ tax incentive scheme which will see corporate income derived from Australian owned and developed patents taxed at a concessional effective corporate tax rate of 17 percent, starting on or after 1 July 2022.
We welcome the review of the administrative framework of the broader research and development tax incentive to be conducted by the Board of Taxation by the end of this year.
We welcome any review which acknowledges the importance of software in modern medical product development and its enormous potential for supporting prevention, diagnoses and management of health conditions. With some software meeting regulatory requirements of a medical device and increasingly being a critical component of medical device development, incentives in this area will support the research and development of software as a medical device.
We support the change to Employee Share Schemes which will make them more attractive as tools by which high growth potential companies can attract and retain the best talent.
The $500 million reform to employee share ownership schemes will reportedly boost incentives for startups and emerging business to offer their staff equity. The employee will no longer be taxed on their shares as soon as their employment at the company ends. The Government is also planning to remove regulatory requirements for the issuing of Employee Share Schemes.
Alongside this we note the Global Talent Attraction Visa, which allows companies in emerging industries such as digital health to identify and attract key, experienced personnel from overseas.
The cybersecurity risk to healthcare systems and health technologies, including ransomware attacks, hacking of personal medical devices and theft of personal medical data, is continuously rising. As such ANDHealth was pleased to see an expanded commitment to Cybersecurity with $43.8 million invested over three years in the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, which will further secure and build capability across national priority sectors identified in the Modern Manufacturing Strategy.
Global Science and Technology Diplomacy Fund |
The establishment of a Global Science and Technology Diplomacy Fund to support strategically important science and technology collaborations with global partners is an important initiative.
Global partnerships such as the ANDHealth partnership with Anthem Inc provide critical support to high growth potential companies seeking to scale globally. Further, such global partnerships and associated markets are critical to the development of a robust digital health industry providing much needed opportunities for companies to move from inception to scale. Ongoing funding is especially welcome ($54.2 million over four years from 2021-22 and $8.2 million per year ongoing).
This budget represents a substantial step forward across several key areas and markets of specific interest to Australia’s digital health community. ANDHealth, its Board and its Members, alongside our many partners and stakeholders, look forward to continuing to work in a proactive and constructive manner to assist and support the Government as it looks to implement these initiatives.