How to use research to design a better health care system

This year’s Australian Health Consumer Sentiment Survey showed us that Australians have considerable faith in our healthcare system. With 84 per cent of the survey’s 5,000 respondents saying they were satisfied with the health services they received, we’re clearly getting a lot of things right. This is an exceptional result, especially during a period when healthcare has been at the forefront of Australian’s minds. We have a world class health system. However, we face a few challenges.

The Digital Health CRC (DHCRC) was established in 2018 with the primary function to accelerate the implementation and translation of research into outcomes that benefit the healthcare sector and the wider economy. A major reason why the DHCRC model is needed is because the process of research translation is not straight forward and lacks efficiencies. Yes, healthcare is very complex and difficult to navigate because it is made up of many distinct and separate parts, but getting these sectors communicating and better connected with one another is key to improving research translation. Bringing academia, industry and government together with healthcare and aged care providers is well done through the CRC structure.

In Australia, we are endowed with a rich and diverse pool of talented researchers. From biomedical sciences to clinical practice and now to artificial intelligence and data science we have fantastic, world-class research being undertaken across a wide range of health and technology fields. We punch well above our weight, but we still face the challenge around the time it takes for that research to become useable as part of clinical practice or taken up to influence policy change. According to the National Foundation for Medical Research and Innovation, translation of research currently takes between 10 and 17 years on average. But given our experiences during the last two years with Covid, we know this process can be accelerated.

The global pandemic placed a great strain on the healthcare system, especially in Victoria and New South Wales where hospitalisation rates were higher. Primary Care providers were under considerable pressure, but like all crisis, it also presented opportunities. Late 2020 through 2021 saw exceptional advancement in collaboration between the research sector and the healthcare delivery sector. With the development of the vaccine, we've seen what would usually have taken 10 years to translate into an outcome to have occurred in only two years.

We find ourselves well placed here in Australia to build on the investment that's already occurred over many decades to accelerate research translation. Now we need to harness these learnings and focus on bringing about improvements in the patient experience, particularly on improving the integration of services and lifting the quality of care that the Australian Health Consumer Sentiment Survey shows us Australians have such great faith in.


About the author

Annette Schmiede

Annette is CEO of the Digital Health CRC.

Annette was appointed CEO of the Digital Health CRC in March 2022, having been a Senior Adviser to the DHCRC since its establishment in 2018. She is a well-respected leader within Australia’s health and aged care sector, having held leadership and governance roles that include public and private healthcare, industry, universities and research entities.