HealthTech firms ‘unsupported by government’: industry report

Brandon How

More funding and a fairer procurement process are needed to support the local HealthTech sector, according to a new report published by the industry body.

Alongside five recommendations, the Medical Software Industry Association (MSIA) published the results of its industry survey, which indicated the need for greater support from the federal government.

A Medical Software Industry Association survey found that 74 per cent of HealthTech firms feel “unsupported by government”

In particular, 59 per cent of companies say the federal government “stifles innovation.” Further, the federal government’s ICT procurement processes were deemed unfair by nearly half  of companies.

The MSIA’s ‘Beyond the Pandemic’ report says that HealthTech companies have made significant contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the delivery of 96 million telehealth services since March 2020, and more than 38 million ePrescriptions since February 9, 2022. In the last month alone, more than 62 million COVID-19 tests have been processed.

Yet following two years of supporting the pandemic response, 74 per cent of respondent companies said they felt “unsupported by government.” In addition, although 35 per cent of respondents stated that they received government funding for pandemic-related work, only 6 per cent say it was sufficient to cover expenditure.

The full report can be accessed here.

MSIA’s five recommendations to “create a fair, sustainable, innovative Australian [HealthTech] industry” are as follows:

  • The development of a sustainable business case
  • Funding to connect the thousands of different health systems securely
  • “A fair go in selling products to governments.” MSIA say the current requirements to work with the government is too costly to comply with
  • Design a scheme that includes guarantees to Australian companies to allow them to compete against non-health specific multinational corporations with deep pockets
  • Greater commitment to skills development, including in cybersecurity

MSIA chief executive officer Emma Hossack said that if the government acts on these recommendations it can capitalise on the recent rapid development of the HealthTech industry.

“The last two years have seen extraordinary cooperation between the industry and federal government agencies, but they have also exposed fault lines. Companies need an environment free of red tape, that is built on fair procurement processes that provide a level playing field between international companies and world-class Australian innovators,” Ms Hossack said.

The report says that HealthTech is the most important tool GPs have but remains invisible to most Australians.

“Any interaction with immunisations, GPs, hospitals, allied health aged care, drug and alcohol addiction care providers, disabilities care, specialists, prescriptions, medications, radiology, pathology and more will depend on the efficacy – and indeed the operation – of health software,” the report reads.

“It works quietly in the background converting data into valuable information.”

According to the report, after more than 20 years in existence the MSIA represents companies which collectively hold 95 per cent of Australian health information.

In a separate investigation into government contracting, the Australian National Audit Office has also launched an investigation into the handling of procurement complaints by the Department of Finance, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and the Reserve Bank of Australia. The report is expected to be published in December 2022.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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