This week saw one of the most anticipated Federal budgets in memory handed down.

By and large ANDHealth felt that the budget was positive for our sector, especially noting the winding back of planned changes to the R&D Tax Incentive. Below we’ve outlined some thoughts on how the implementation of some key budget measures could be considered to benefit the digital health sector:

Modern Manufacturing Initiative – Medical Products – We welcome the renewed focus on our manufacturing capability in the medical field and encourage the government to ensure that we focus on manufacturing the medical products of the future, not the products of the past. Connectivity and companion and integrated software is essential to creating a new generation of connected devices to support the evolution to virtual care and delivery of diagnosis, care and treatment outside of clinical settings.

Funding for research including the MRFF – The MRFF remains a significant asset to Australia’s international competitiveness in the research, development and commercialisation of health and medical research and innovation. However we need to focus on research, development AND commercialisation activities that will ultimately impact patient outcomes, but also create the next generation of companies such as ResMed, Cochlear and Planet Innovation.

Innovation and commercialisation happen in many different forums, not just in traditional research institutes and universities, but in private enterprise and non-profits as well. We need to invest in innovative solutions and specific programs to address the perpetual challenges of translating our research into genuine commercialisation of cutting edge technologies in health.

Telehealth is a critical foundation for a healthcare system of the future which is able to deliver virtual and asynchronous care in real world settings in an affordable and accessible way. It was disappointing to not see telehealth reimbursement embedded as a permanent feature of our healthcare system and we encourage the Government to “lock in” the reimbursement of this critical tool in our future healthcare system, rather than view it only as a temporary response to COVID-19.

Only by cementing in this foundation, which is readily available in other jurisdictions, can we capitalise on technology to pave the way for cost-efficient, scalable, personalised, accessible and affordable healthcare for all Australians.  Once telehealth is secured we can move towards using technology to deliver high value virtual care through collection of objective real world information, asynchronous care paradigms and technology enabled patient monitoring, management and risk assessment. Without reimbursement, patients and clinicians had no real incentive to take up digital health interventions and companies have little incentive to deploy world leading digital medicine into the Australian market – so reimbursement is critical for creating market pull.

Commercialisation – We welcome the additional funding to our University sector which has been hit immensely hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the focus on building stronger linkages between industry and research. However, as an organisation with a novel model for bringing multiple sectors, including the university sector, together to deliver proven commercialisation outcomes, we encourage Government to look beyond university technology transfer and industry partnerships as the sole solution to commercialisation.

Alongside this investment we believe the Government can look to innovation focused organisations, programs, accelerators and incubators with proven track records in bridging the divide between idea and business, between research concept and marketed products. These intermediaries can rapidly accelerate engagement between business and research and be a proven and effective mechanism for facilitating business investment in R,D & C.