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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Health technology cracks code for patients and profits

A team of mentors is combining medical future funding with the tools of venture capitalism to turn the best digital health ideas into gadgets, jobs and exports.




Health technology breakthroughs are bringing more jobs, a more advanced health system and better outcomes for patients, according to Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearney.


Some 56 new full-time jobs have been created for every $1 million of total investment, and more than four times the gross economic value for every dollar spent, according to an independent report released by Ms Kearney at parliament house on Wednesday.


Australia has been telling itself for decades that it's great at research and terrible at turning ideas into commercial success.


But a flagship program funded by industry and the federal medical research future fund has been tracking the economic value of developing digital health for diagnosis, monitoring and recovery at home.


"We're paving the way to ensure our health system provides a more personalised and connected healthcare," Ms Kearney said.


The ANDHealth+ program uses an "idea to exit" business accelerator model to distribute funding and specialised support to homegrown small and medium-sized businesses that have high-growth potential.


"These are technologies that can raise money, create jobs, run clinical trials and go and impact millions of patients around the world," ANDHealth chief executive Bronwyn Le Grice told AAP.


Technologies can diagnose epilepsy more accurately and quickly, or use artificial intelligence to identify whether eye disease drugs are working or not and how much a dose may need to change to halt macular degeneration.


A top cardiologist could remotely monitor your rehabilitation program after heart surgery.


An AI-powered wearable device called "Oli" monitors vital physiological signs to identify mothers at high risk of having birth complications, and was named after the son of the founder of a firm called Baymatob, located in Sydney's inner west.


"These are all technologies that we work with, and some of them have medical devices attached, but the smarts are in the software," Ms Le Grice said.


Research author LEK Consulting said the business model, which could be used in other sectors, can solve the commercialisation challenge plaguing Australia.


Some 850 digital health companies have been supported, a total of $161.8 million in capital has been raised, 512 new jobs created, dozens of clinical trials held, one million patients reached and 30 product launches put on internationally.


A total of 755 of the startups remain in operation, demonstrating success in a tough environment for new companies and investors.


Companies developing diagnostics, monitoring and screening put on the most jobs, according to the report.


But startups often face lengthy development and significant clinical trials before getting clearance from regulators to market a product, leaving them without revenues for an extended period and dependent upon grants and equity capital for survival.


Ms Le Grice said pockets of expertise should be supported, whether the idea comes from a shed or lab, a patient, a doctor or caregiver, or a coder wanting to fix a healthcare problem.


"All we care about is whether or not you've got an evidence-based technology that can change lives," she said.


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