Virtual Healthcare needs to be part of a new-not old-health system – Alison Verhoeven

H[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]To limit virtual healthcare in this way is to squander the opportunity for healthcare reform and a better health system in the longer term – and that is the main message from our report, The effective and sustainable adoption of virtual health care.

 The current implementation of telehealth has certainly met some short-term and important needs in the health system – but to achieve lasting system transformation will require sustained policy efforts across big-picture areas such as funding, governance and workforce.

So far, we’ve substituted GP and outpatient clinic visits with phone calls and videoconferencing; we’ve made some limited foundational improvements such as e-prescribing; and in some places, such as in “virtual hospitals”, there has been some reading of tasks and processes.

However, a foreword-looking approach to virtual healthcare would involve planning to embrace the opportunities which may be available, for example, through remote monitoring, data-driven quality improvement, artificial intelligence and other innovations, to create new models of care.

To maximise the long-term benefits of virtual healthcare, we think some key areas of focus should be:

  • Patient-centredness, including codesign with patients, and measuring what matters to patients;
  • Equity, including proactive efforts to ensure affordability, equitable access to technology and digital literacy;
  • Cross-sector leadership and governance, across jurisdictions and the primary and acute care sectors, and in partnership with industry and researchers;
  • Digitally-capable health workforce development, prioritising team-based care and new roles needed to optimise integration of technology into health care;
  • Interoperability, standards and quality assured technology; and
  • Funding for reforms, including better use of data and evaluation.

Now – more than ever – as we face the most significant health and economic challenges experienced in a century, we need big-picture thinking and serious policy reform efforts that are agile and innovative.

We cannot shy away from disruptive thinking and the need to do business differently in order to achieve better rentals that take full advantage of the modern technologies available to us.

Equally, we should not sacrifice new thinking in order to maintain current healthcare practices, processes and professional interests.

You can read AHHA’s report on the effective and sustainable adoption of virtual healthcare here.[/vc_column_text][vc_zigzag][vc_column_text]


Alison Verhoeven is the Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, the national peak body for public and non-profit hospitals, Primary Health Networks, and community and primary healthcare services.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Australian MedTech research efforts boosted by $18.8 million

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The funding – which has attracted an additional $21.3 million in industry contributions – comes from the third round of the BioMedTech Horizons (BMTH) program, an initiative of the Medical Research Future Fund operated by MTPConnect.

MTPConnect Managing Director and CEO, Dr Dan Grant, says round three of BMTH focused predominantly on digital health innovations.

“We know that digital evolution continues to drive change across many aspects of healthcare so for this funding round we targeted support for SMEs and companies researching digitally-enabled medical devices in mobile health, health information technology, wearable devices, telehealth and telemedicine, and digitally-enabled personalised medicine,” Dr Grant said.

“From the 21 selected projects, patients of the future are set to benefit from new research into treatments and diagnostics for conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, stroke, paralysis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, brain injuries, back pain and chronic middle ear disease.

“In a highly competitive round, our independent and expert evaluation committee has selected projects in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.

“The $18.8 million we’ve allocated to these 21 projects has leveraged an additional $21.3 million in contributions from industry which means a total of $40.1 million is flowing into the healthtech sector.

“Through the BMTH program and the MRFF we are backing innovation and technological advancements in areas such as digital health solutions, medical devices, precision and regenerative medicine supported by advanced manufacturing and clinical trials with a vision of better health outcomes globally.

“Building home-grown translational and commercialisation capacity means boosting our knowledge economy and creating new products, jobs and potential exports. This is particularly important now considering the hit that our sector has taken dealing with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.”

“MTAA is proud to be part of the BioMedTech Horizons program and supporting Australian innovation,” said Ian Burgess, MTAA CEO.

“The exciting technologies that are being supported by the BioMedTech Horizons program will contribute enormous value to the Australian healthcare system.”

The BMTH program makes funding available for SMEs to develop new health, biological and medical technologies to reach proof-of-concept so they are attractive for private capital investment and commercialisation. Further details about the 21 successful projects are listed below.

Round 3 recipients:

Anatomics Pty Ltd, Victoria, is developing digitally enabled skullcaps to monitor brain swelling in craniectomy patients to optimise timing of skull reconstruction surgery.

Anisop Holdings Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is developing a nano-optimised surface to prevent orthopaedic and dental implant infections.

Apollo Medical Imaging Technology Pty Ltd, Victoria, is developing an Artificial Intelligence-based clinical decision support software for guided acute stroke therapy.

Artrya Pty Ltd, Western Australia, is developing Artificial Intelligence methods for evaluating cardiac CT angiography and high-risk imaging biomarkers.

Atmo Biosciences Pty Ltd, Victoria, is developing an application of Atmo ingestible gas sensing capsule to diagnose Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

Bionic Vision Technologies Pty LtdVictoria, is developing an implantable vision system and algorithm in their Bionic Eye Generation 3 device to restore functional vision for blind patients.

Carbon Cybernetics, Victoria, is developing a high-resolution cortical recording of the brain for the prediction and prevention of epileptic seizures.

Ear Science Institute Australia, Western Australia, is advancing the commercialisation of its ClearDrum® device, which is an acoustically-optimised silk fibroin implant for the treatment of chronic middle ear disease.

Ferronova Pty Ltd, South Australia, is working to improve colorectal cancer outcomes with hybrid cancer tracers.

HemideinaVictoria, is developing a miniature, low-energy wireless power and data transmission system for implantable medical devices.

Inventia Life Science Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is developing a 3D bioprinting system for intraoperative skin regeneration.

Merunova Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is developing an augmented digital re-construction and re-visualisation of spine MRI for the personalised diagnosis of back pain.

Miniprobes Pty Ltd, South Australia, is developing a smart brain biopsy needle for faster, safer neurosurgery.

Neuromersiv Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is advancing the commercialisation of its hand and arm wearable device for use with the Neuromersiv virtual reality rehabilitation system.

Northern Research Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is advancing the commercialisation of its PulseVAD pulsatile rotary blood pump that is designed to treat patients suffering from a form of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) for which, at present, there is no effective treatment.

OncoRes Medical Pty Ltd, Western Australia, is developing compact wireless technology for improvement in the accuracy during breast conserving surgery.

Optiscan Pty Ltd, Victoria, is developing its non-invasive confocal endomicroscopy system to enhance oral cancer screening and surgical margin assessment.

Seer, Victoria, is developing personalised epilepsy treatment via mobile and wearable monitoring.

Synchron Australia Pty Ltd, Victoria, is advancing the commercialisation of its Stentrode; a minimally-invasive brain-computer interface being designed to enable people with paralysis to restore functional independence by engaging in activities of daily living such as email communication, text messaging and online shopping, by controlling apps and external devices through thought alone, and without requiring open brain surgery.

VenstraMedical Pty Ltd, New South Wales, is enhancing the development of a transcatheter blood pump system for Cardiogenic Shock and Hemodynamically Compromised patients.

Zip Diagnostics, Victoria, is establishing domestic capabilities for combined R&D and manufacture of point-of-care diagnostics.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The MRFF is an ongoing research fund announced by our Government in the 2014-15 budget. The target was to grow the MRFF to $20 billion through annual credits which are preserved in perpetuity.

The Government’s final credit of $3.2 billion will enable the MRFF to reach the historic $20 billion investment target just five years after the fund was established in 2015.

The capital of the MRFF is invested, with the earnings used to pay for important health and medical research projects, supporting Australia’s best and brightest health and medical researchers over the long term.

This investment is critical, particularly in light of the devastating impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on so many Australians.

The MRFF is transforming health and medical research in this country. It will improve lives. It will save lives. At the same time, it will help build the economy, make Australia a global research destination, and make our health system more sustainable.

In the 2019–20 Budget, the Morrison Government announced a $5 billion, 10-year investment plan for the MRFF.

This plan continues our support for lifesaving research to develop new drugs, treatments, devices and cures. It gives researchers and industry certainty and direction, and reaffirms Australia’s reputation as a world leader in medical research.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

MTPConnect to Deliver $47M Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Accelerator Program

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The announcement was made jointly by Hon Greg Hunt MP, the Minister for Health and Hon Karen Andrews MP, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

MTPConnect said it will deliver a Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease Accelerator (Accelerator) program to provide a new integrated research program to improve the management and treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease (D&CVD) in Australia.

The Accelerator will:

  • Establish research centres for diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Establish a contestable funding program to support D&CVD research projects
  • Promote the clinical and commercial translation of novel therapeutics and devices for D&CVD

The Accelerator will take a national and inclusive approach to working with clinicians, researchers, health administrators, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health groups and consumers.

MTPConnect Managing Director & CEO, Dr Dan Grant, has welcomed the awarding of the program, through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), which he says MTPConnect is uniquely placed to deliver.

“At its core, the MTPConnect Accelerator will stimulate collaboration across relevant industry, research and clinical organisations and leverage strengths across the sector to ultimately produce novel preventative interventions, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches and products for D&CVD that reduce the burden on patients, families and communities,” Dr Grant said.

“The TTRA program will drive a new focus on research efforts for the most pressing areas of unmet clinical and research needs in D&CVD, which are leading causes of death and disability in Australia.”

MTPConnect Chair Sue MacLeman says the MTPConnect Accelerator program will establish research centres for D&CVD across Australia, provide funding support and promote clinical and commercial translation.

“MTPConnect continues to make a valuable contribution to the growth of the MTP sector. Our Growth Centre work is now complemented by four Medical Research Future Fund programs worth nearly $147 million,” Sue MacLeman said.

“Through our work fostering collaboration, addressing workforce challenges, opening-up international markets and optimising regulatory and policy frameworks we are playing a key role to drive Australia’s health and economic wellbeing.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Breakthrough 20 Minutes COVID-19 Blood Test

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In a discovery that could advance the worldwide effort to limit the community spread of COVID-19 through robust contact tracing, researchers were able to identify recent COVID-19 cases using 25 microlitres of plasma from blood samples.

The research team, led by BioPRIA and Monash University’s Chemical Engineering Department, including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology (CBNS), developed a simple agglutination assay – an analysis to determine the presence and amount of a substance in blood – to detect the presence of antibodies raised in response to the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Positive COVID-19 cases caused an agglutination or a clustering of red blood cells, which was easily identifiable to the naked eye. Researchers were able to retrieve positive or negative readings in about 20 minutes.

While the current swab / PCR tests are used to identify people who are currently positive with COVID-19, the agglutination assay can determine whether someone had been recently infected once the infection is resolved – and could potentially be used to detect antibodies raised in response to vaccination to aid clinical trials.

Using a simple lab setup, this discovery could see medical practitioners across the world testing up to 200 blood samples an hour. At some hospitals with high-grade diagnostic machines, more than 700 blood samples could be tested hourly – about 16,800 each day.

Study findings could help high-risk countries with population screening, case identification, contact tracing, confirming vaccine efficacy during clinical trials, and vaccine distribution.

This world-first research was published today (Friday 17 July 2020) in the prestigious journal ACS Sensors.

A patent for the innovation has been filed and researchers are seeking commercial and government support to upscale production.

Dr Simon Corrie, Professor Gil Garnier and Professor Mark Banaszak Holl (BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering, Monash University), and Associate Professor Timothy Scott (BioPRIA, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, Monash University) led the study, with initial funding provided by the Chemical Engineering Department and the Monash Centre to Impact Anti-microbial Resistance.

Dr Corrie, Senior Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Monash University and Chief Investigator in the CBNS, said the findings were exciting for governments and health care teams across the world in the race to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said this practice has the potential to become upscaled immediately for serological testing.

“Detection of antibodies in patient plasma or serum involves pipetting a mixture of reagent red blood cells (RRBCs) and antibody-containing serum/plasma onto a gel card containing separation media, incubating the card for 5-15 minutes, and using a centrifuge to separate agglutinated cells from free cells,” Dr Corrie said.

“This simple assay, based on commonly used blood typing infrastructure and already manufactured at scale, can be rolled out rapidly across Australia and beyond. This test can be used in any lab that has blood typing infrastructure, which is extremely common across the world.”

Researchers collaborated with clinicians at Monash Health to collect blood samples from people recently infected with COVID-19, as well as samples from healthy individuals sourced before the pandemic emerged.

Tests on 10 clinical blood samples involved incubating patient plasma or serum with red blood cells previously coated with short peptides representing pieces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

If the patient sample contained antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, these antibodies would bind to peptides and result in aggregation of the red blood cells. Researchers then used gel cards to separate aggregated cells from free cells, in order to see a line of aggregated cells indicating a positive response. In negative samples, no aggregates in the gel cards were observed.

“We found that by producing bioconjugates of anti-D-IgG and peptides from SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and immobilising these to RRBCs, selective agglutination in gel cards was observed in the plasma collected from patients recently infected with SARS-CoV-2 in comparison to healthy plasma and negative controls,” Professor Gil Garnier, Director of BioPRIA, said.

“Importantly, negative control reactions involving either SARS-CoV-2-negative samples, or RRBCs and SARS-CoV-2-positive samples without bioconjugates, all revealed no agglutination behaviour.”

Professor Banaszak Holl, Head of Chemical Engineering at Monash University, commended the work of talented PhD students in BioPRIA and Chemical Engineering who paused their projects to help deliver this game changing COVID-19 test.

“This simple, rapid, and easily scalable approach has immediate application in SARS-CoV-2 serological testing, and is a useful platform for assay development beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We are indebted to the work of our PhD students in bringing this to life,” Professor Banaszak Holl said.

“Funding is required in order to perform full clinical evaluation across many samples and sites. With commercial support, we can begin to manufacture and roll out this assay to the communities that need it. This can take as little as six months depending on the support we receive.”

COVID-19 has caused a worldwide viral pandemic, contributing to nearly 600,000 deaths and more than 13.8 million cases reported internationally. Australia has reported 10,810 cases and 113 deaths (figures dated 17 July 2020).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

People in MedTech Bronwyn Le Grice

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Since inception, ANDHealth has been delivering programs designed specifically to address unique commercialisation challenges faced by digital health companies. Bronwyn’s inspiring leadership and communication skills, with an investment perspective have led the innovation path to growth and success for 10 companies in ANDHealth programs.

Bronwyn’s executive experience in the health technology sector has spanned venture capital, transaction management, capital raising, corporate development, investor relations and industry advocacy.

Reflecting her role in the healthcare industry and the impact made by ANDHealth, Bronwyn was recently recognised as BioMelbourne Network’s Most Valuable Women in Leadership 2020. Under Bronwyn’s leadership and delivery by the ANDHealth team, companies in the accelerator program have raised over $28 million in capital, created more than 165 jobs and have treated over 70,000 patients since 2017.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

ANDHealth Releases Digital Health Industry Report

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Three years in the making, the report contains detailed information dating back to ANDHealth’s 2017 inception. The report notes that the global value of the digital health market is predicted to reach USD$505.4 billion by 2025, up from USD$86.4 billion in 2018.

Since mid-2017, ANDHealth has engaged with more than 300 companies, demonstrating a huge pipeline of high potential growth companies, representing a diverse set of clinical indications, technologies and end users settings in the digital health sector.

The greatest challenges facing the industry however is the ability to commercialise these technologies, access to capital, access to customers and access to the expertise necessary to market.

Despite this, publicly funded infrastructure capabilities in Australia such as the MyHealthRecord, the Digital Health CRC and substantial State-led initiatives have created the necessary environment upon which digital medicine and therapeutics companies can begin to build patient facing interventions to substantially improve outcomes.

The pipeline of companies and technologies outlined in the report demonstrates the potential to position Australia as a global destination for digital health development, commercialisation, clinical trials and implementation, delivering against the triple aim of post-COVID recovery investment:

  1. Economic growth through high value STEM-based companies headquartered in Australia, delivering globally;
  2. A resilient, agile, scalable and personalised healthcare system, focused on preventing, diagnosing, managing and treating illness using cutting edge technologies; and
  3. Expanded high-value manufacturing capabilities, through sensors, wearable, connected devices and regulated software products.

MTPConnect Chair, Sue MacLeman, said there was no longer any doubt that digital health is at the heart of the modern healthcare landscape.

“The technologies around data standardisation, artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming healthcare services, with digital enablement and integrations pricing opportunities for continuous healthcare improvement that we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. Most excitingly, the possibilities for future innovations are profound,” Ms MacLeman said.

The report concluded that healthcare remains one of the last remaining sectors to experience wholesale disruption, until now. Digital health will be absolutely essential to delivering equitable, high-value and affordable care in the future.

As healthcare costs rise and consumers demand more from health systems around the world, digital interventions which improve health and wellbeing and save the system critical capital will be key. For our early innovators, such as the companies that the report highlights, this means navigating often uncharted waters, and linking into a growing and dynamic international network of innovators, investors and service providers to reach their global potential.

Read the Report here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The NOTUS Ventilator Program Update

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The ventilators are being developed for the NOTUS Emergency Invasive Ventilator Program led by Melbourne-based Grey Innovation.

With the TGA audit of Grey Innovation and the two final assembly lines at Planet Innovation in Box Hill and Medmont International in Nunawading competed last week, the company is now at the point of refining the production process and bringing the line up to speed. Grey Innovation says they are on track to manufacture patient circuit and consumables locally through Fairmont Medical.

Electronics manufacturer Circuitwise Electronics, a member of the Australian consortium of companies developing the ventilators was front and centre during a ABC News broadcast that saw General Manager, Serena Ross, interviewed by the ABC at Circuitwise’s facilities where the printed circuit board assemblies were being manufactured.

The focus of the ABC’s reporting was not just on the ventilator program but also on the efforts underway to raise awareness of local manufacturing capabilities.

Speaking to the ABC’s Western Sydney reporter Kathleen Calderwood, Ms Ross said she was pleased to be able to represent a range of other companies in the electronics sector that can provide advanced manufacturing services to Australians companies looking to go #AustralianMade.

“We are just one of over 2,000 companies that put their hand up to help. In electronics, we have shown we are now competitive with Asia by investing in advanced technology and rigorous quality systems to enable manufacturing of high-reliability products like medical devices,” Ms Ross said.

“There will be many other companies in other manufacturing sectors that raised their competitiveness and now warrant a closer look from companies that have blindly assumed that they should go offshore. These companies should realise that the new #SmartMove is to manufacture in Australia.”

While restrictions around Australia are being eased, the consortium is working to help boost the national stockpile to ensure there is always a ventilator available to patients in the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Growing Australia’s PPE capability

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Kestrel Manufacturing is receiving $495,000 to assist in its production of filter materials used in both surgical and P2 masks.

Clets Linen is receiving $213,000 to increase its capacity to fulfil ongoing orders for disposable isolation gowns for both Australia and abroad.

Nobody Denim is receiving $400,000 to instal up to 20 new sewing machines to produce isolation gowns, while RRJ Engineering will manufacture more plastic PPE components, including hand sanitiser bottles, closures and pumps, with $392,000 in assistance.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said this support will help Australia be more self-sufficient in a crisis – as well as create new export opportunities.

“This is about more than just the here and now of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is about working with our local manufacturers to produce the supplies which will make Australia more safe and secure into the future,” Minister Andrews said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some gaps in our capability to produce essential medical supplies and this will go a long way to addressing that.

“This co-investment will not only develop our local manufacturing capability, it will see staff up-skilled and new opportunities created both directly and indirectly along the supply chain.

“These investments will also help industries heavily impacted by COVID-19, especially the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industry which employs over 31,000 Australians in manufacturing jobs.”

Kestrel Manufacturing will dedicate one of its existing meltblown machines to producing high-quality medical grade filter material that will assist other local companies like Med-Con as it ramps up its annual mask production from a couple of million a year to almost 60 million.

Kestrel Manufacturing General Manager Robert Watson said this support is “welcomed by local manufacturing businesses and clearly demonstrates the Government’s support for boosting Australian capability”.

RRJ Engineering Pty Ltd CEO Royston Kent said it “gives industry the confidence to invest in its people, facilities and to update technology”.

“Our project will be unique and will give us the opportunity to add value to our business and the local medical industry,” Mr Kent said.

The Australian Manufacturing Fund for PPE has been established to stimulate business investment in new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector, with a focus on securing Australia’s sovereign capability.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Medical Technology industry collaboration on PPE supply plays key role in return to elective surgery

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“MTAA has been working closely with the Government to help secure the PPE supplies required to ensure the smooth running of our healthcare system, and we are proud to have played an important role in enabling a return to elective surgery,” said MTAA CEO Ian Burgess.

MTAA’s industry working groups have also been instrumental in securing essential supplies of ventilators and test kits on behalf of the Australian Government.

“The medical technology industry welcomes the announcement that patients will once again have access to life-changing treatments and technology through elective surgery.

“We congratulate Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Morrison Government for taking swift and decisive action to successfully flatten the curve through the elective surgery pause and many other effective measures.

“For a range of medical conditions, what is now non-essential, very quickly becomes essential if left untreated, and a measured and responsible return to elective surgery will ensure continuity of care for those who need it most.

“A gradual and responsible return to elective surgery with the safety of patients and medical personnel front and centre will enable thousands of Australians to access the treatments they need to keep them working, studying and spending more time with their families. “We look forward to more Australians once again being able to access the life-changing benefits of medical technology,” Mr Burgess said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]