Digital health backgrounder

The challenges

Australia’s health system has contributed to a transformation in the human condition.

We’re living longer – a child born today will on average live to 83 and see in the 22nd Century.

We’ve largely defeated infectious diseases and our roads and workplaces are safer than they’ve ever been.


Our longer lives bring with them a greater risk of chronic and degenerative diseases which are difficult and expensive to manage and treat. Half of us have one or more chronic conditions. If we’re over 65 then 30 per cent of us have three or more chronic conditions.

Obesity is on the rise and Type 2 diabetes is reaching almost epidemic levels across the developed and developing world.

The health system can’t keep up. Annual health expenditure has passed $170 billion which is more than 10 per cent of GDP.

And the system is splitting at the seams. It’s too complex: for patients and their families, for health professionals, for industry, and for government.

Digital transformation is part of the solution.

Digital technologies have transformed how we work, travel, shop and socialise. We can buy almost anything we want in a moment using a smartphone. Why can’t we manage our health – our appointments, our medications, our records using our smartphones?

Digital Health could improve health outcomes AND reduce costs by

  • giving care providers all the information they need
  • providing transparency and access for consumers empowering them to manage their own health
  • saving 20 to 30 per cent of the health budget by reducing low value care, adverse events and other problems
  • enabling every Australian to manage their own health with their smartphone
  • offering new national and international opportunities for smart health companies.

However, around the world government and the private sector have struggled with the complexity of digital transformation. In Australia the system still depends too heavily on physical records, faxes and the post, and even where information is available in digital form, it is often difficult to access and join-up with related health information.

The Digital Health CRC’s 80-member organisations represent every segment of the health system from patient to community, hospital to insurer, start-up to big government.

Our researchers, from 16 universities, will work with our health partners to develop and test solutions that work for real patients in real hospitals and other settings of care. And our business partners will work alongside them to ensure that the solutions are scalable and implementable. We’ll develop them in Australia, then take them to the world.

First off the rank

The Digital Health CRC has already established an ambitious research and development agenda.  Its research priorities include tackling adverse drug reactions, mining knowledge from health data, and empowering consumers.

Adverse drug reactions

Adverse drug reactions are responsible for over 400,000 GP visits a year, and for 30 per cent of elderly emergency admissions. The cost is over $1.2 billion in Australia alone. We believe that half the cost is avoidable.

The Digital Health CRC will:

  • Develop, or source and validate, apps and wearable technology that will encourage patients to take the right medicine at the right time, and let their carers, and regulators know of problems
  • Develop better ways to share information on adverse reactions with patients, health professionals, industry and regulators.
  • Develop better decision support apps for clinicians and for clinical trial managers.
  • Interrogate health data to find patterns of adverse drug reactions.

(Libby Roughead, University of South Australia, can comment)

Mining knowledge from health data

The Digital CRC will work with a wide range of public health organisations, insurers and services providers such as HMS—a US claims analysis business with health data on circa 100 million Americans—to determine the effectiveness and value of medical interventions. They hope to answer, for example:

  • Which treatments, drugs and devices are successfully enhancing the lives of real (anonymised) people?
  • Which patients are most at risk of re-admission?
  • How can we lower costs and optimise value in the healthcare system?

(A-Prof Federico Girosi, Western Sydney University or Prof Adam Elshaug, University of Sydney, can comment)

Empowering consumers

Today we treat chronic diseases, rather than preventing them – it’s time consuming, complex and disenfranchises patients.

Our researchers plan to move from a treatment focus to prevention, lifestyle and disease management with:

  • new care models
  • diet and lifestyle management
  • empowerment and behaviour change.

(Athula Ginige, Western Sydney University/Rachel Davey, University of Canberra/Georgina Drury, Springday can comment)

About the Digital Health CRC

A $200+ million opportunity to transform health delivery: improving health outcomes; reducing waste in the health system; building businesses and jobs.

The Digital Health CRC will have at least $111 million in cash funding, and $118 million in-kind funding to invest over its seven-year life.  The Centre will operate through collaborative R&D programs involving multiple Australian and international industry and academic partners.

Participants include 40 commercial and government organisations operating across the health, aged care and disability sectors, 24 established and start-up technology companies, advisory and investment companies, and 16 Australian universities.  The bid has the support of both the Australian Digital Health Agency and the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals industry growth centre (MTP Connect).

Over the seven-year life of the Digital Health CRC they will:

  • Improve the health and wellness of hundreds of thousands/millions of Australians
  • Improve the value of care
  • Reduce adverse drug events
  • Join up data in the health system creating an improved system benefiting all Australians
  • Save the Australian health system $1.8 billion
  • Create 1000 new jobs
  • Create new companies and products for Australian and global markets
  • Create a new digital workforce.


Christine Bennett, Chair, Digital Health CRC

One in four Australians admitted to a hospital will have an adverse event, 20,000 people will die each year from medical error and estimated $45B health spend is wasted every year through inappropriate care and system inefficiency.

Over the seven-year term of this CRC $1.9 Trillion will be expended on health, aged care and disability services. Projected growth rates will see healthcare’s share of GDP rising from 10% to over 15%. And yet health services and clinicians are often flying blind in terms of understanding the impact and outcomes of their care, and consumers have little access to tools to support their health and wellness.

Our CRC has the support of and will align with the work of both the Australian Digital Health Agency and MTP Connect, the medical technologies and pharmaceuticals growth centre.

David Jonas, CEO, Digital Health CRC

A key focus will be on developing digital health technology businesses.  This market is growing internationally at over 26% annually reaching $400bn p.a. by 2024.  We will work with partners and external organisations that specialise in growing and supporting start-ups and securing investment capital.

Our education and training program will improve digital health literacy in the population, develop a digitally competent health workforce, and through embedding PhDs and postdocs in industry produce the next generation of health technologists.

Meredith Makeham, Chief Medical Adviser, Australian Digital Health Agency

Australian Digital Health Agency Chief Medical Adviser Meredith Makeham said that the Agency supports the Digital Health CRC as an excellent opportunity for government, industry and academia to collaborate on cutting edge research and development in this field.

The Australian Digital Health Agency congratulates all of the participating organisations who have worked together in the realisation of this important initiative.

We are looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to the evidence building in digital health with other participants in the CRC, which will support improved services and health outcomes for Australian consumers and clinicians.

Bronwyn Evans, Chair, MTPConnect

Closing the gap between fostering high level research capability and industrial innovation priorities is essential to the future of our sector. MTPConnect is excited to support a centre that is set to be an important driver in the development of digital healthcare. The proposed CRC will address the significant global trend of spiraling costs of healthcare by developing programs that look to aggregate, connect, and analyse data from multiple sources, contributing to the economics and performance of the healthcare spectrum, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and improved access to healthcare

Associate Professor Federico Girosi, Chief Scientist, Digital Health CRC & University of Western Sydney

One of the main strengths of the Digital Health CRC is the broad range of stakeholders and industry partners involved as this: “creates a unique opportunity to explore more integrated models of care and to overcome the fragmentation problems characteristic of our health care system.

It will also allow our PhD students to enjoy unique advantages, including invaluable access to the expertise and real-world challenges of our partners – we’re producing the next generation of data scientists for the future of our industry.

Professor Tim Shaw, Lead Investigator, Digital Health CRC & The University of Sydney

This is an exciting grant as it brings industry and provider partners together to allow us to transform many aspects of healthcare delivery at scale, and improve health outcomes by improving the efficiency of the health system.

Associate Professor Marcel Dinger, CEO, Genome.One

Genome.One is thrilled to be a partner in the new Digital Health CRC, which will enable the exploration of how we can integrate key health information, including genomics and phenomics data, into clinical decision making and population health interventions across our health services.

Dr Thomas Wenkart, Director and CEO, Pen CS

Australian innovation has been burdened by its solo player mentality and lack of appropriate funding methods by ‘Angels’. This major collaboration now underway, will ensure that the issues, activated pragmatically, will produce amazing outcomes. The real challenge is to harness the skills to achieve the ‘community benefit in the shortest possible time.’ This matches commercial reality too.

Nick Graves, Professor of Health Economics, QUT

QUT Professor of Health Economics, Nick Graves, said the university has capacity and excellence in many research disciplines that complement the goals of the DH-CRC.

“These include delivering real world solutions to the challenges of increasing the value of the current health spend, using evidence to change and support better models of care, harnessing the power of big data, developing novel devices and empowering consumers of health services,” he said.

He said health research arises in many of QUT’s faculties and so this exciting collaboration will involve a range of QUT’s academics.

Prof Leigh Sullivan, DVC Research & Innovation,  Federation University 

This significant success aligns Federation University Australia’s long-term commitment to engaging translational and innovative research to meet the needs of individuals and communities, whilst being strategic in fostering World-class research. Our health and technology researchers are enthusiastic about collaborating closely with other researchers and industry partners in the Digital Health CRC and make an important contribution to the Australian economy and society.

 My Linh Kha, Managing Director, Amgen Australia

Amgen is pleased to be a member of the Digital Health CRC consortium, as we see the future of medicines being increasingly linked with digital solutions- not only in terms of better ways of managing records and information, but in helping address the community’s needs for better outcomes from treatment. Amgen’s involvement in the CRC reflects our commitment to being able to demonstrate the value of our medicines. The purpose of the CRC – to optimise the use of evidence to improve personal healthcare- is well aligned with Amgen’s mission – to serve patients. We look forward to working with our new CRC partners to find ways to create better health outcomes through the use of information and technology.

Prof Penelope Schofield, Head of Behavioural Science in Cancer at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Professor of Health Psychology and Program Lead: Personalized Health Care Innovation,  Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne

New technology is transforming how we live. The Digital Health CRC is ensuring our health system is at the forefront of this change and we deliver on the potential for better patient outcomes through enhanced service delivery and access to information.

Elizabeth Sullivan, Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Professor of Public Health, UTS 

The collaborative and industry-focused approach of the Digital Health CRC is a perfect fit for the UTS health strategy where we work across disciplines and professions to bring about better health outcomes for all.

We’re facing unprecedented and complex health care challenges, including an ageing population, a fierce drive for efficiencies, and health systems that are increasingly under strain. UTS looks forward to delivering strong research and robust evidence to deliver practical outcomes for our industry partners.

Professor Ian Burnett, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and IT, UTS 

We are motivated to improve people’s lives by capitalising on the best information technology advances available. UTS is a leader in digital transformation and the impact on health is exciting. Partnering in the Digital Health CRC brings the right industries and researchers together to make big, bold contributions to this mission.