[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]HTA has been growing in popularity among reimbursement agencies worldwide in the last 20 years. Its application to medical devices has been slower for a range of reasons. Its popularity has a number of drivers including the desire to find an objective basis for funding decisions for health technology.

A cost-effectiveness or a cost-utility evaluation seeks to measure the additional clinical benefit and cost of using a new medical product compared to what is now used for the same condition. In cost-utility analysis, patient quality of life and length of life is combined into a single ‘utility’ measure. This is the analysis most commonly used by the Department of Health and its major committees.

To operate effectively, HTA generally requires two major components: firstly, clinical evidence that can be used to compare products; and secondly: an economic analysis of benefits and costs. It therefore requires research – usually by the sponsor – to gather and present data as well as a systematic process of evaluation.

When assessing whether HTA is being done properly, questions can be asked such as:

  • Is the process fair and transparent?
  • Is the depth and complexity of the process suitable for the expected clinical risk and cost?
  • Are the correct outcomes being evaluated?
  • Is there a reasonable way of dealing with uncertainty given data is never perfect?

Australia was one of the first countries to use HTA to assess reimbursement for pharmaceuticals through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). Typical submissions grew from a few dozen pages in the early 1990s to thousands of pages currently.

This was followed by assessment of other medical procedures and technologies through the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) starting in the late 1990s.

The Prostheses List Advisory Committee (PLAC) and its subcommittees also assess relative cost and effectiveness for prostheses to go on the Prostheses List where a higher benefit is requested. When a medical device is on the Prostheses List, private health insurers are required to pay for it if they have relevant hospital cover for the procedure.

The Australian Government has a policy of making assessment for reimbursement of medical technology and procedures more uniform. To this end it amalgamated the Department of Health sections responsible for supporting assessment process for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), Medicare Services Schedule (MBS) and the Prostheses List into one Branch – the Office of Health Technology Assessment.

The MedTech industry, through the Medical Technology Association of Australia (MTAA) is supportive of the appropriate use of HTA for Prostheses List applications but it needs to be undertaken with care. Medical devices are different from pharmaceuticals in that:

  • They are dependent on operator skill
  • Blinded trials are often not practicable
  • Short life cycles/incremental improvements narrow the evidence window
  • Low volume reduces the quantity of evidence
  • The effect on the patient is usually physical not chemical
  • They may require much more company support to use

PulseLine understand that MTAA is now in a process of Prostheses Reform discussion with the Australian Government and other stakeholders. The correct use of HTA for prostheses is a key part of that discussion. The industry has recommended that a ‘prostheses-specific pathway’ be developed that bolsters the capacity of PLAC to evaluate relative effectiveness and cost of new prostheses without requiring a full MSAC deliberation that is resource-intensive and lengthy.

HTA for medical devices is here to stay. Time will tell if the processes put in place by for the Prostheses List enable patient access to good technology or hinder it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Big jump in My Health Record from 2019 to 2020

Whether it was due to natural disaster or the COVID-19 lockdowns and closed state borders, many patients couldn’t see their healthcare provider face-to-face.

This is when My Health Record really shines and healthcare providers can access their patients’ important medical information such as test results, medications and hospital discharge summaries anywhere, anytime.

Independent Clinical Advisor to the Australian Digital Health Agency, Dr Steve Hambleton, said more and more healthcare workers were realising the practical benefits of digital health.

“I want hospitals and specialists to have rapid access to relevant information about my patients when they are caring for them, and as a GP, when a patient comes back to see me having been discharged from hospital or with a report from a specialist, I value what those hospitals and specialists share and upload to My Health Record for the ongoing care I provide,” he said.

From July 2019 to June 2020:

  • the number of documents uploaded by GPs and viewed by others has risen to 187,000, a 165 per cent increase.
  • GPs viewed 416,000 documents uploaded by others, an increase of more than 250 per cent
  • the number of documents uploaded by public hospitals and viewed by other healthcare providers has risen to 322,000, an increase of nearly 300 per
  • Public hospitals viewed 271,000 documents uploaded by others, an increase of more than 300 per

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4808″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Agency CEO Amanda Cattermole said “Over the last 12 months it’s been great to see the increases in clinically helpful data in the system and the sharing and viewing by health professionals.

“My Health Record provides the repository for consumers’ health data and a great way for them to safely and securely engage with their healthcare providers.

“I encourage people to log into their My Health Record and ensure their information including allergies, medicines, immunisations, and any pathology reports has been uploaded.

“This will give you peace of mind, knowing that in an emergency situation, information like your medications and allergies are rapidly available to medical staff.

“It can make a significant difference to health outcomes and assist medical staff in diagnosis and treatment.”

Key statistics July 2019 to June 2020:

  • Total number of My Health Records in Australia increased by 230,000, from 22.55 million to 22.78
  • Total number of records with data in them increased from 10.08 million to 19.41 million, a nearly 93 per cent increase.
  • Number of health documents in the My Health Record system has risen from 1.3 billion to 2.09 billion over the financial year. Clinical documents, uploaded by hospitals, pathologists or radiologists, have risen from 23 million to 75
  • Medicine documents, uploaded by pharmacies and GPs, have risen from 56 million to 143
  • Immunisation documents in the system have gone from 4.8 million to 15
  • Organ donor registrations have gone from one million to 1.5
  • Pharmacies registered with My Health Record have risen from 88 per cent to 99 per cent. GPs registered have risen from 86 per cent to 93 per cent. Public hospitals have risen from 75 per cent to 95
  • Pathology reports in My Health Record have gone from 13 million to 53
  • Diagnostic imaging reports have risen from 2.6 million to 8.2
  • Dispense records have risen from 27 million to 82 million.

Former Intensive Care Registrar at Armidale Health Service in Western Australia, Rowan Ellis, attests to the benefits of My Health Record: “We had a patient who presented as critically unwell and intensive care staff were asked to review the patient,” he said.

“It became apparent that they had been treated recently at a different hospital and we didn’t have access to their records, so we hopped onto My Health Record and found all the necessary discharge summary information details of their specialist who we then contacted directly to discuss their care. We then arranged transfer out to the hospital where they were already receiving ongoing treatment.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Private health insurance premiums are going up this week. But the reasons why just don’t stack up

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]At a time when many policy-holders are facing financial stress and many elective surgeries or treatments suspended or delayed, this month’s price rise isn’t justified. With a further price rise already set for April 2021, it would be fairer to delay any fee hike until then.

  1. Increasing costs of hospital and health care — false

Costs of hospital and health care paid by private insurers have reduced substantially in 2020, not increased, according to the latest figures from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. That’s because many elective surgeries and routine extra care (such as dental check-ups) were suspended.

Private insurers paid reduced hospital treatment benefits in two consecutive quarters. They dropped 7.9% in dollar terms in the March 2020 quarter, compared with the December 2019 quarter. They fell another 12.9% in the June 2020 quarter, compared with the March 2020 quarter.

Private insurers’ payments for general treatment (also known as ancillary or extras) benefits dropped even more. They fell 32.9% in the June 2020 quarter, compared with the March 2020 quarter.

Some may argue the reduction in benefits paid is because substantially fewer people had private insurance in 2020. But this is not true.

While there was a small drop in the number of people with private health insurance in the first half of 2020, this was by less than a percentage point: the number of hospital memberships fell by only 0.4 percentage points. There was a similar drop in the number of people with extras cover.

  1. Increase in claim frequency — false

Another reason for the price rise is there have been more claims over a given time, or an increase in claim frequency. This, again, is not true this year.

Private insurers paid for 16.7% fewer hospital treatments in the June 2020 quarter compared with the March 2020 quarter. That’s a 4.1% reduction in the 12 months to June 2020.

Private insurers paid out 28.4% fewer extras claims in the June 2020 quarter, compared to the March 2020 quarter. This was a 9.8% fall over the 12 months to June 2020.

In Victoria, services are only gradually returning to full capacity from November. So it will be a long while before claims return to pre-pandemic levels.

People have also been avoiding seeking needed health care because they are afraid of contracting the coronavirus, or cannot afford out-of-pocket costs due to increased financial stress. This would be another reason for the numbers of claims decreasing, not increasing.

  1. More chronic disease, an ageing population — no data supporting this for the next 6 months

In the long run, these claims are correct and premiums should increase gradually over the coming years because of the ageing population and growing incidence of chronic conditions.

However, they’re not likely to change enough in the next six months to justify a premium increase now.

Here’s what should happen

Some insurers are already providing discounts for families in financial hardship, such as people receiving JobSeeker or JobKeeper. Others offer discounts or waive price rises to people who pre-pay their policies for up to 12 months. More insurers should do this.

Providing financial relief and delaying the October premium increase will not only help customers but also help private insurers in the long run.

Increasing premiums twice in six months (October 2020 and April 2021) during an unprecedentedly difficult time can backfire, especially if the reasons to support the increase do not stack up.

When premiums increase, young people are more likely to drop private health insurance. This will drive up premiums further for everyone. This in turn will lead to more young and healthy people dropping their cover.

Consequently, it may cause a “death spiral”, driving private health insurance out of business.[/vc_column_text][vc_zigzag][vc_column_text]

This article originally appeared on

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The JobMaker plan has the potential to not only create thousands of jobs but also create the new jobs of the future. The MedTech industry already employs 19,000 innovators, experts, researchers, manufacturers, and medical technicians, and the pro-growth policies set out in this year’s Budget will further support the industry’s growth and capabilities in Australia.

The Budget also addresses the harsh realities of a once in a 100-year global pandemic, which has sadly claimed the lives of 894 of our fellow Australians. However, unlike many other countries around the world, Australia’s successful response in handling the COVID-19 pandemic is thanks, in no small part, to the outstanding collaboration between governments and the MedTech industry which rose to the occasion, supplying 7,500 ventilators, over 7.7 million COVID-19 tests and other essential medical equipment.

In August, MTAA submitted to the Government 18 policy priorities to supercharge Australia’s COVID- 19 recovery. Today we welcome the Government’s adoption of, in full 3 policies and in part, a further 4 policies.

MTAA’s budget submission recommended the Government upgrade the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) IT Systems. With the Morrison Government’s announcement of $12 million, this will now become a reality. The digital transformation of the TGA will ensure that they can fulfil their role, including performing activities such as applications tracking and status transparency. It will also provide information in a usable format and improve the ability to search and link various TGA databases. MTAA CEO, Mr Ian Burgess, said “The TGA IT systems were from 1998, and hampered interactions between the MedTech industry and the TGA. This investment in upgrading the system will ensure the TGA is best able to approve life-changing and lifesaving medical technology innovations.”

The Budget also solidified the Government’s earlier announcement of a comprehensive energy policy. MTAA called on the Government to develop an all-inclusive energy policy with a particular focus on the needs of manufacturing with an aim to provide long term certainty and lower energy costs.

“This Budget provides a solid foundation for energy pricing, we know this could give MedTech manufacturers the prices they need to manufacture lifesaving and life-changing medical devices in Australia,” Mr Burgess said.

The announcement of the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy is a clear indication of the Government’s commitment to ensuring Aussie Manufacturing, particularly MedTech, can continue to be a global leader.

“More than half of Australian medical device companies have grown from local start-ups, so this budget will make an important impact where it is needed most, shoring up Australia’s MedTech innovators now and into the future,” Mr Burgess said.

The Treasurer also announced home and community-based care reforms allowing alternative care pathways when clinically appropriate. This will include mental health and general rehabilitation services, including orthopaedics. Home and community-based care was a key recommendation in MTAA’s pre-budget submission.

Mr Burgess said “Tonight’s announcement of further support for home and community-based care comes after sustained advocacy from MTAA. MTAA hope the proposed changes will ensure Australian’s can receive the care they need it, where it best suits them.”

This Budget included $3.3 billion for the COVID National Medical Stockpile. MTAA’s Pre-budget Submission recommended government replenish and further build the National Medical Stockpile with a portion of locally manufactured essential items. This includes $9.2 million for increasing onshore mask manufacturing capability.

The Government also announced a total of $2.4 billion in telehealth services. MTAA provided an extensive recommendation to Government calling upon Government to continue to reimburse telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

“During COVID-19 the Government asked MedTech to supply 7,500 ventilators, the MedTech industry did this. Today this has been recognised with 7 budget submission recommendations included in this Budget” Mr Burgess said. “This budget will help to improve Australians’ access to innovative Medical Technology.”

MTAA supports the measures the Treasurer has today outlined, which, we believe, will improve Australians access to the best and latest medical technologies they need and can distribute these to the world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Digital transformation to deliver more timely medicines for Australians and improve patient safety

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Government is investing $12 million over four years to digitise, transform and modernise the TGA’s business systems and infrastructure, better connecting services to get medicines and devices to patients sooner.

New digital processes will deliver simpler and faster interactions between industry and government. This means earlier approvals of medical products, reduced administrative effort, and timelier decision-making by the TGA.

Under this Deregulation Agenda, the Government has said focused on ensuring regulation is and remains fit-for-purpose – making it easier to do business while ensuring essential safeguards with the lightest touch.

This measure will yield a significant reduction in red tape, cutting costs for the medicines and medical devices industry. It will also position Australia to more quickly access emerging and new health technologies in the international market.

The TGA receives around 26,000 applications every year for medicines and medical devices to be listed or amended on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), which allows them to be imported, sold and used in Australia.

The digital changes will enable simpler and more secure interactions between Government and industry to apply for, track, pay, and manage listings for regulated and subsidised health related products and services.

The TGA receives 15,000 adverse drug reaction reports on patient safety per year which are entered manually through PDF rather than through a central database.

With these reforms, medical companies will now be able to use an electronic database to report these patients safety events with automatic data transfer – saving them up to 15 minutes per report.

All Australians will benefit from a streamlined process which increases the timeliness of decisions on the safety, quality and efficacy of therapeutic goods, and their approval for listing on the ARTG.

Consumers and health care professionals can also have greater confidence in the safety and efficacy of therapeutic goods, with increased transparency built into the reforms.”

Cyber security will also be bolstered to ensure the protection of commercial-in-confidence information from industry.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In a statement announcing the investment, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, confirmed more than $16.9 million had been awarded to researchers to study women’s health issues and aspects of primary health care, and to facilitate more and better clinical trials of new and improved treatments.

In the lead up to Women’s Health Week – taking place from 7th to 11th September 2020 – the MRFF grants announced would include:

  • $5 million over five years for the National Women’s Health Research, Translation and Impact Network, aimed at research with strong potential to improve health outcomes for women and girls;
  • $5 million over four years to the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance to be a national partner providing specialised leadership and support to both investigator-led and industry clinical trials, and to Clinical Quality Registries; and
  • More than $6.9 million delivered to five projects to improve primary health care in the areas of contraception and abortion for rural women, health care for people in aged care, diabetes in Indigenous Australians, nutrition and heart disease, and the health of urban Indigenous people.

Compared with men, women have a higher life expectancy but experience more disease burden from living with disease, rather than dying early from disease and injury.

The Women’s Health Network are expected to use the funding for research into nine priority areas, including reproductive health, mental health, and preventing cancer and heart disease.

The Government has said the project will also boost national and international collaboration on women’s health, build health workforce capacity and develop leaders in women’s health.

In addition to these grants, Minister Hunt said he was announcing new grant opportunities worth more than $86.5 million for clinical trials and other vital research.

Clinical trial grant opportunities totally $77.2 million will provide up to:

  • $24 million for the Million Minds Mission Mental Heath Research supporting access to new approaches to prevention, diagnoses, treatment and recovery;
  • $3 million for clinical trials to examine the benefits of medicinal cannabis for managing pain, symptoms and aside effects for cancer patients;
  • $25.2 million for international clinical trial collaborations; and
  • $25 million for clinical trials of new or improved treatments for rare cancers, rare diseases and other illness with unmet clinical need.

Other grant opportunities are making $9.3 million available for research:

  • $4.8 million for primary health care research; and
  • $4.5 million from the MRFF and National Health and Medical Research Council for research into silicosis, a preventable lung disease related to inhalation of fine silica dust from artificial stone bench tops.

The Government has identified investment in health and medical research as one of its key priorities in its Long Term National Health Plan.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Government has identified 17 occupations on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL), confirming they were chosen based on advice from the National Skills Commission and consultation with relevant Commonwealth agencies. The list is expected to be reviewed regularly.

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, said the changes would strike the right balance for Australia’s economic recovery.

“Our priority is getting Australians back into work but we also need key health workers to help fight the virus and skilled migrants who are going to be job multipliers, to help the economy recover,” Mr Tudge said.

“These occupations in the health care, construction and IT sectors will supercharge both our health and economic response to COVID-19.

“Visa holders who have been sponsored by an Australian business in a PMSOL occupation can request an exemption from Australia’s travel restrictions, but will be subject to a strict 14 days quarantine on arrival at their own expense.”

While existing skilled migration occupation lists will remain active and visas will still be processed, priority will be given to those in occupations on the PMSOL.

The 17 occupations (ANZSCO code) on the list are:

  • Chief Executive or Managing Director
  • Construction Project Manager
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Resident Medical Officer
  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Practitioner nec
  • Midwife
  • Registered Nurse (Aged Care)
  • Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency)
  • Registered Nurse (Medical)
  • Registered Nurse (Mental Health)
  • Registered Nurse (Perioperative)
  • Registered Nurses nec
  • Developer Programmer
  • Software Engineer
  • Maintenance Planner

PulseLine advises readers seeking further information about the travel exemption process for those critical skills and sectors, please visit:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Australian Prudential Regulation Authority statistics for April to June, released today, show that the proportion of Australians with hospital cover fell for the 20th consecutive quarter.

With premiums up 30 per cent under this Government and many Australians struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19, hospital coverage is now at the lowest level in 14 years.

The Private Health Insurance Act gives the Minister for Health the power to reject premium increases that “would be contrary to the public interest”.

Greg Hunt must now explain why another 2.92 per cent average increase in October would be in the public interest – or cancel that increase altogether.

Another increase would compound the pain that many policyholders felt between April and June, when they were forced to pay for services they couldn’t use. Today’s figures show that benefits fell by more than 20 per cent compared to the March quarter, reflecting COVID-19’s impact on elective surgeries and dental, optical and other visits.

Labor acknowledges that claims are expected to recover in subsequent quarters, and welcomes the steps some insurers have taken in response to COVID-19 – particularly HBF, which has already cancelled its 2020 premium increase.

But with private health insurance already in crisis, and affordability and value further undermined by the pandemic and recession, additional premium relief and comprehensive reform are needed urgently.

Today’s figures follow yesterday’s warning by the Australian Medical Association that the financial impacts of COVID-19 “will result in even more young people giving up their insurance, increasing pressure on an already unstable system”.

The AMA has called for the October Budget to include reforms to improve the affordability and value of private health insurance – consistent with Labor’s longstanding calls for reform.

As a starting point, the Minister must reconsider October’s premium increases as a matter of urgency.[/vc_column_text][vc_zigzag][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”4203″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]


Chris Bowen MP is the Shadow Minister for Health and Labor Member for McMahon[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]MTAA CEO, Ian Burgess, has blasted the health insurers for profiteering and playing politics at a time of national crisis, and called into question the timing and motives of the PHA distraction campaign.

“This dodgy document, produced and distributed by the private health insurers’ lobby, is a blatant attempt to distract from their profiteering during the pandemic, by attacking the hard working healthcare workers who are on the frontlines trying to save lives,” Mr Burgess said.

“In the middle of the COVID  spike in Victoria, and at a time when everyone, federal and state governments, public and private hospitals, government and industry, manufacturers and distributors,  doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are all working together to help save lives, private health profiteers are more interested in smear tactics trying to make an extra buck at the expense of the community.”

The Impacts of COVID-19 have been felt across the entire healthcare sector, and will continue for years to come.  But despite these impacts, MedTech innovators have pulled together in an unprecedented effort to support the Morrison Government’s pandemic response.

Through a historic collaboration with the Government, MedTech successfully secured supply of essential medical equipment, not only through the global supply chain but through a number of innovative local partnerships, that were able to ramp up Australian manufacturing in a remarkably short period of time.

While MedTech innovators have been instrumental in securing essential supplies of ventilators, test kits and PPE for the Government, private health profiteers have raked in windfall profits on the back of the pandemic, while simultaneously cutting back on claims for hospitals and extras since the suspension of non-urgent elective surgeries in late March.

Mr Burgess highlighted the timing of the dodgy document’s release, just ahead of private health insurers’ annual profit reporting period.

“There’s no question that the release of this dodgy document was an attempt to start a distraction campaign aimed at drawing attention away from the private health insurance companies profiteering during the COVID-19,” Mr Burgess said.

“These political tactics and smears are an insult to the healthcare workers who have been focused on getting Australia through this once in a generation health crisis. It’s time now for private health insurers to stop putting profits ahead of people and join the team against COVID-19.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As part of the 2020 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the two countries have agreed on an AUSMIN Global Health Security Statement, which commits them to strengthening their health cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in 2020 and beyond.

Together, Australia and the United States have committed to helping build Indo-Pacific partner capacity in biosecurity, biosafety and bio-surveillance to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks and reduce the risk of future pandemics.

The two nations said they will work with countries in the region to improve hygiene conditions, and mitigate zoonotic disease and pandemic risks associated with wildlife wet markets. They will also work to strengthen public health emergency operations centres in selected partner countries, such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, said the partnership between the two countries plays a significant role in improving and advancing health security across the Indo-Pacific region.

The Statement, which has been developed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United States Department of State, builds on Australia’s Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific region, and the United States’ Global Health Security Strategy.

Australia and the United States will continue to work with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to accelerate the development and distribution of vaccines, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to improve vaccine access in the world’s poorest countries.

In addition to the immense health and social impact, the IMF has projected that the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the world US$9 trillion dollars over the next two years. Australia will remain committed to participation in regional and global health forums, including with the United States.

Minister Payne said that more than ever before, both Australia and the United States recognise the need for concrete action and leadership to support global health security in our region.

The full text of the statement can be found here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]