Business | Healthcare | Occupational Health & Safety | Technology

What healthcare solutions does Australia really need?

3 May 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

In the context of future Australian healthcare, it is important that healthcare innovators don’t simply come up with solutions they think are good for problems they think exist.

This is the thinking behind icare’s approach to stimulating and facilitating innovation in healthcare.

icare is the NSW government’s insurance and care provider, catering for more than 3.4 million workers, builders, homeowners and road-users, and 296,000 employers throughout the state.

In providing these services to the people and businesses of NSW, icare has a mandate to help define the future of Australia’s health ecosystem and the way it interacts with and meets the needs of the people it serves.

Through direct consultation with patient networks, and intensive customer research conducted in its newly-developed design lab, the organisation has built a solid understanding of the sector’s biggest pain points – and the healthcare solutions Australia really needs.

icare General Manager, Strategy, Amy Barouch, is due to speak at the Innovate Health conference in Melbourne from 26 to 27 June. In an exclusive interview, she discusses why icare has taken this approach to improve the delivery of care across the sector.

“We have really thought hard about our role in healthcare innovation,” says Amy.

“We see our role as stimulating innovation in the right areas. We start by ensuring that we have a deep understanding of what our customers truly need and want, and can then encourage the broader healthcare ecosystem to develop and offer innovative solutions that will meet those needs”.

“Ultimately, we exist to get the best possible life outcomes for the people we insure and support.”

In doing this, Amy and her colleagues follow a robust methodology of stakeholder engagement and customer research to accelerate new innovations.

“The first step is extensive liaison with customers and relevant stakeholders. We interact with patients, community hospitals and rehab providers; identify high-need, high-value ‘pool’ areas of demand, and then facilitate supply in whatever way makes sense,” she says.

“For healthcare problems which already have commercially available solutions elsewhere, but not locally, we take a proactive approach to help bring those solutions to our customers. Where we encounter a need which doesn’t yet have a solution, we scan the market for a vendor which has the capability to develop one, and help either secure investment or provide seed funding,” she said.

This all-encompassing approach is the first of its kind in Australia, and although still in infancy has already shown some preliminary success.

“For example, we’ve been in close consultation with research bodies like the Asbestos Research Institute and Sydney oncologists to undertake research with mesothelioma patients, an asbestos-induced cancer of the lining of the lung and one of the deadliest oncological diagnoses.”

“What concerns us greatly is Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world and many sufferers pass away as a result of the cancer within 18 to 24 months of diagnosis”.

”We’ve identified a need to make new forms of immunotherapy drugs, like Keytruda, available for our customers who’ve tried standard treatment options without success and whose oncologist considers they may benefit from the new treatments.

“We’re closely monitoring the outcomes of clinical trials in the UK, USA and New Zealand using Keytruda to treat mesothelioma, some of which have shown promising results.”

“We’re excited to see what other innovations we can stimulate through this research.”

Hear more from icare’s Amy Barouch at the Innovate Health Conference – due to take place from 26 to 27 June at the Intercontinental Melbourne.

Twitter: @innov8health

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