As part of Melbourne Health Research week, the event ‘Take this app and call me in the morning: The future of digital health technology prescribing’ was held in the function centre of the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

There were five speakers at this lively event.

Chris Kommatas is currently the Innovation Manager and Accelerator Program Director.

Chris Kommatas

Chris Kommatas is currently the Innovation Manager and Accelerator Program Director at Melbourne Health. Chris has extensive experience setting up digital health organisations. He focuses on building a strong, connected startup community.

He is currently on the management team of Australia’s only startup accelerator program, situated inside the Royal Melbourne hospital.

Dr James Dromey

Dr James Dromey is the Chief Operating Officer at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. James has championed digital health and is helping the institute become an international leader in this area.

He supports greater collaboration and knowledge transfer across health, technology and engineering. James  is also co founder of ANDHealth a national digital health initiative.

Nadia Miller

Nadia Miller is the Senior Music Clinician at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She is is part of the team building the Music Therapy App due for release later this year.

Tim Blake

Tim Blake is a digital health strategist and consultant. He has been strategic digital health advisor for the Department of Health and is now Managing Director of Semantic Consulting, a consulting firm focused on leading digital change in healthcare. Tim is a passionate advocate for health reform and is advisor to digital health startups in Australia and overseas.

Grace Lethlean

Grace Lethlean is currently the program manager at ANDHealth, a national digital health initiative established by a consortium of commercial and government partners. It aims to support the development and commercialisation of clinically validated digital health technologies across Australia. The consortium was awarded funding in October 2016 by Australian Federal Government Innovation Growth Centre.

First up was Tim Blake. He talked about some of the challenges of digital health. This includes how to manage the explosion of digital health products like apps and smart devices. There are over 100,000 health apps on the iTunes store, many of which have little or no clinical validation.

Tim pointed out that while patients are reaching out for consumer-friendly health technology, many Doctors and hospitals are still tied to paper records, out-dated diagnostic equipment and badly designed health records systems.

Tim said there are early plans for certification from the Australian Digital Health Agency, but the huge number of products coming on to the market makes this task onerous. Under development is The Digital Health Guide, a catalogue and rating system of digital health products.

“80% of people begin their search for health related information by using a search engine like google.” Tim Blake

Dr James Dromiev was next. He opened with the issue of the long time between development of new technology and wide market usage. According to James the field of genomics is as example of how the ‘hype’ of health technology doesn’t quickly turn into outcomes and usage.

“Regulators need to catch up with new technologies and digital health needs to follow evidence based practice.”

James also discussed a collaboration between the technology company Curve Tomorrow and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, that has created a unique opportunity to combine ideas for reform, new technology and clinical trials. An accelerator program called Bytes4Health has resulted from this collaboration. It offers health startups to access medical research, clinical expertise and product development.

“This is a tech company embedded in a medical research institute, embedded in a major hospital’.

While Australia is being disadvantaged by it’s isolated from the rest of the world, James is aware of Australia’s vibrant startup community. Programs like the Melbourne Health Accelerator Program and Bytes4Health are bringing startup innovation and technology into the health industry.

Then Nadine Millar spoke. She is the Senior Music Clinician at Melbourne Health. Nadine has 12 years clinical experience in music therapy for neurology and oncology patients.

Nadine talked problems with current commercial music therapy tapes. Guided meditation tapes give instructions like deep breathing that is not appropriate for people with certain clinical conditions. Music therapy tapes are in English and 50% of Royal Melbourne Hospital patients were born in another country. The Music Department was using older technology music, on tapes then on CD’s, which made access for patients difficult.

So Melbourne Health Music Department decided to create it’s own music therapy app. They engaged a local app developer, worked their way through creating content structure and user experience, and have created a unique product. The Music Therapy App is due for release later this year.

And finally, Grace Lethlean is program Director at AndHealth, Australia’s first National Digital Health Initiative. Her work history includes being a co-inventor of a digital health technology company, then helping other startups go from invention, through clinical trials and into commercialisation. Grace was previously the Business Development Manager at Grey Innovation.

Grace talked about things to consider when developing health app.

Are you solving a genuine problem? Do you have clinical evidence to back up your claims? Who will pay for for your product?

She discussed some common roadblocks for health entrepreneurs, include getting their products accepted by regulatory bodies and finding investment funds.

The purpose of ANDhealth is to advance the commercializations of clinically validated health technology in Australia. They have recently been established by a group of commercial and government partners, their structure is not for profit.

It was then on to question time

The audience, that included participants from the Melbourne Health Accelerator Program, startup founders, investors, and Doctors from within the hospital.

Ross Hardy

Ross Hardy from Adyuvo –

“Who gets to choose which health technology is clinically valid; clinician staff or patients?”

Dr James Dromey – “Both, but ultimately health technology must have clinical proof of effectiveness.” Tim Blake – “The health system has had plenty of time to reinvent itself but has not, so many patients are taking control.” Chris Kommatas – “Health technology needs to be people driven, and clinician led.”

Rob Beveridge from Praxhub –

“How do Doctors get to take control back over health technology?”

Dr James Dromey – “It’s a hard time to be a Doctor, there is so much data around. We need Watson type software to help us manage and understand big data.” Tim Blake – “We are in a healthcare-type of reformation. Patients are so frustrated they are turning towards the internet and away from experts.” Nadia Miller – “Patients are generally less trusting. This is a global issue, many people have turned away from mainstream politics and media.”

“First generation digital health technology has committed war crimes by producing terrible e-health records. All they did was make everyone's life harder, rather than easier. Meanwhile, consumer focused tech companies like Apple have raised the bar in terms of usability.” Ross Hardy

Barry Nguyen

Barry Nguyen -

“I am the Digital Health Technology Advisor for the Australian Physiotherapy Association. What suggestions have you got to help us move across to digital records?”

Tim Blake – “It’s easy to spend half a million dollars and end up with no customers, so look at the market carefully.” Dr James Dromey – “It is really important to go overseas on a regular basis, and see what is currently being used.” Chris Kommatas – “Stay focused on what the problem is that you are trying to solve, what solutions will work, your expected outcomes are and how this will all be funded.”

Melbourne Health Research week goes from the 22nd to the 29th of June. The Melbourne Health Accelerator Program is situated on the 2nd floor in a decommissioned Intensive Care Unit, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Clinical staff and health technology companies are welcome to come and visit.

@ Wikihospitals June 2017