An emerging sector in Australia, health tech innovations are helping to deliver care to Australians in new and exciting ways.
A new wave of mobile applications and technological ideas backed by science are improving health outcomes in patients. And they’re making a difference in the ways in which clinicians work.
Here’s a look at some of the current trends turning heads and shaping the future of Australian health care.
Late last year, Australia’s first “digital hospital” opened in Hervey Bay on Queensland’s Fraser Coast.
This hospital, operated under UnitingCare Queensland, boasts advanced wireless technologies which integrate all medical records, X-ray and pathology results, nurse call systems, phone systems and patient medical devices, such as blood pressure machines and infusion pumps.
Their physician will have access to health alerts, medications, vital signs, test results and patient history
The technology enables clinicians to access patient information from anywhere, allowing for faster and more efficient decision making.
“It is gratifying to know that patients who come here to receive care will be comforted by the fact that their physician will have access to health alerts, medications, vital signs, test results and patient history, for example, in real time on mobile devices,” CEO of UnitingCare Queensland Anne Cross said in a release.
Sensors Predicting Falls
In December, a team of Melbourne innovators won the inaugural Janssen HaTCH challenge and was awarded a $100,000 grant after developing a sensor system that has the ability to predict falls in the elderly before they occur.
Attached to a walking frame, the system — known as Footprints — will continuously monitor a senior’s walking quality and inform doctors when interventions are required.
This can not only help to prevent falls, it also reduces costly hospitalisations.
One of the device’s founders, Wesley Loh, told Janssen HaTCH: “Currently our health care system pays $8.4 billion for injuries caused by falls. Footprints can help reduce these costs by preventing falls. The device may also improve the quality of life of Australian seniors and could allow them to remain independent for longer.”
Home-Based HIV Tests
Home-based HIV tests might soon be available through a new type of oral test (ORT).
HIV rapid tests such as the ORT can play a key role in early diagnosis, initiation of antiretroviral therapy and preventing transmission,
While evidence for oral tests has been mixed, a new study suggested this test had similar accuracy to the only other rapid HIV test on the Australian market (a finger-prick blood sample). The ORT test, which involves sweeping a swab across the gum lines and then placing it in a solution, is thought to be ideal for those who would prefer to test at home.
“HIV rapid tests such as the ORT can play a key role in early diagnosis, initiation of antiretroviral therapy and preventing transmission,” the study authors wrote.
The test is currently being considered for Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval.
Home Monitoring of Chronic Diseases
Last year, a $5.47 million telehealth trial which aimed to demonstrate the deployment, operation and evaluation of a broadband-enabled system for home monitoring of patients with chronic disease concluded.
The trial results are still being evaluated, but preliminary findings have been positive.
Pulse IT reported the findings indicate cost savings through nurse visiting and travel time could offset the cost of the equipment and potentially lead to better health outcomes for patients living at home.
The finding also suggested older people in the community are interested in helping to manage their health and that well-being improved in some participants.
Early Disease Detection Via Smartphone Technology
Another finalist in the Janssen HaTCH challenge, Life Picture, combines urinary biomarkers with smartphone technology.
Increasing personal health awareness through monitoring of biomarkers may assist in optimising self-management of diet and fitness activities
Life Picture has the potential to detect early signs of diseases via apps. It’s useful for patients and also for clinicians to monitor the impacts of interventions on disease risk factors and outcomes.
“Increasing personal health awareness through monitoring of biomarkers may assist in optimising self-management of diet and fitness activities,” Developer Andrew Low told Janssen HaTCH. People who have a high risk for disease can use the app to keep tabs on their own fitness activity and diet, and watch results over time. The app empowers people to take ownership of their own healthy lifestyle. In a survey conducted by Budget Direct, participants said treatment and detection for cancer and other diseases was among the best advancements. This app is aiding the process.
Exercise Prescribed by an IOS App
TrackActive is an iPhone and iPad app designed specifically for therapists, personal trainers and exercise professionals who need to efficiently prescribe and send exercise programs to their clients.
The app differs from existing tools because it’s driven by health professionals, not patients. This helps to ensure that the programs are tailored for individuals and it allows the care team to monitor and connect with patients while completing their exercises in home.
“Patients access their program through a secure mobile web login or via the iPhone application. They can set reminders, log completion and record symptoms so you keep track of when they did their exercises and how they are progressing,” the founders write on their website.
Two new innovations are leading the charge in on-the-spot testing in Australian health care.
Recently, The Herald Sun reported on a $5 million boost given to a team of doctors, scientists and researchers from the University of Melbourne who are developing a series of bionic devices.
These small, matchbox-sized devices could provide on-the-spot diagnostics, including pathology or diagnostic tests, and they could also monitor adverse reactions to medications. The research team is also developing devices which include potential treatments for diseases like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and various spinal injuries.
Many rural hospitals are now utilising point-of-care devices which allow hospital staff to conduct on-the-spot testing
In New South Wales, many rural hospitals are now utilising point-of-care devices which allow hospital staff to conduct on-the-spot testing when there are no labs on site.
Enabled by NSW Health Pathology, these devices aim to provide faster diagnosis and treatment. They also help to avoid air evacuations to larger hospitals which can be costly.
“The statewide Point of Care Testing (PoCT) program has provided new devices to more than 150 small emergency departments (mainly rural and regional) that don’t have access to 24/7 pathology laboratories onsite,” a report into the PoCT program revealed. It is currently the largest managed point-of-care system in the world.
Find out more about gadgets that are being used for healthcare in our article called ‘Sci-Fi or Real Life? Gadgets For Health Care‘.
Survey Stats: Survey was conducted by Budget Direct in the month of April 2015 with a random selection of 1,000 people.