Digital health is a much misunderstood term in Australia at a time when the emerging sector is coming of age elsewhere in the world. This is not about ICT and improving efficiencies in back office health functions, it is about delivering front-line clinical treatments via non-drug digital means.
ANDHealth is Australia’s national digital health initiative, building a support ecosystem around an embryonic industry in this country.
ANDHealth is interesting because it was set up to meet a specific need in a market that was not well understood by policy-makers, or by traditional funding structures. From a government perspective, the notion of supporting an industry that delivers health treatments via digital technology falls through the cracks between different portfolios and agencies.
Bronwyn Le Grice is chief executive officer at ANDHealth and an industry development policy wonk. She has had a career on the capital and entrepreneur side of the medtech and pharma businesses – but in her travels recognised that Australia had not moved at all on the emerging Digital Health business.
Ms Le Grice pulled together some partners, and with co-founder James Dromey – who is the chief operating officer at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute – set up ANDHealth as an industry-led business accelerator for the digital health sector.
It is an interesting moment in time for the digital health sector. Consider that the US Food and Drug Administration has made sweeping regulatory changes that enable it to now give “approval” ratings to non-drug treatments.
In Australia, the ASX-listed PainChek Ltd was the recent recipient of a $5 million Morrison Government grant to facilitate the roll-out of the companies pain recognition app across residential aged care facilities.PainChek is the world’s first AI-based smartphone pain assessment and monitoring device.
In this podcast, Ms Le Grice talks about the opportunities for digital health entrepreneurs in Australia.
“It is a massively fast-growing investment class, and industry,” Ms Le Grice told InnovationAus.com. “I had met a bunch of entrepreneurs who couldn’t find anywhere to go for information, and I felt there was an unmet need there.”
ANDHealth was set up to development the industry in this country. So far cohort companies had raised $15.5 million, generated 75 new jobs and undertaken 290 commercial pilots in the past 18 months – and served 20,000 patients.
“I have a passion for industry development. ANDHealth is filling an unmet need in supporting a new sector that currently does not have a natural funding source,” she said.
“Digital Health tends to get talked about around a whole bunch of different areas, health ICT, MedTech/Pharma and it doesn’t have a natural home because it is an enabler across that continuum.
“We are very focused: Can we change the commercial outcomes for digital health companies in Australia? And can stop our budding digital health entrepreneurs from taking their extraordinarily early stage [companies] to the Bay area and jumping into Y Combinator and never coming back,” Ms Le Grice said.
When ANDHealth was established, its co-founders and partners thought the primary challenge for entrepreneurs in digital health was about gathering clinical evidence.
But most entrepreneurs now know they need clinical data. “What they don’t necessarily have is an economic model, a model that will help them to build a business.”