Australia's Digital Health Revolution: Q&A with Brownywn Le Grice, Managing Director and CEO, ANDHealth
ANDHealth is an industry led national digital health initiative established by a consortium of commercial and government partners to facilitate and support the development & commercialisation of clinically validated digital health technologies across Australia.
ANDHealth is a pioneer in supporting the start-up sector, how have you been able to achieve so much in a matter of years?
In my view the real power of ANDHealth lies in its ‘by industry, for industry’ origins, the diversity and leadership of its corporate members and the central philosophy that people with genuine, demonstrable expertise who are active in the sector are best placed to support emerging companies. We were established to solve a key problem in bridging key gaps for companies in a new and fast emerging sector which required cross-sectoral understanding and networks, and a sophisticated understanding of global market trends and opportunities. It’s also an industry that attracts lots of “hype” but in which it can be hard to identify industry experts with genuine expertise.
Specifically, our ANDHealth+ program focuses on companies who already have a viable product and customer traction but are struggling to access international markets and institutional capital, rather than creating another program which focuses on early stage ideas and feasibility. Our programs are bespoke and highly specialized, which allows us to focus resources on our cohort companies in areas where improvement and support will lead to the greatest impact.
We’ve also been incredibly fortunate to have attracted fantastic cohort companies, with engaged and committed leadership teams, who are willing to take what can be, at times, pretty intensive feedback. We’ve worked with teams who have been involved in very high profile international and national programs who have returned to ANDHealth to address the barriers they haven’t previously been able to overcome.
What do you see as the exciting developments at the moment or future trends?
We’ve definitely seen a significant hype cycle with respect to digital health globally, so in 2019 there is a clear maturation of the way in which patients, clinicians, regulators and payers view digital health. Like all tech sectors, there is plenty of jargon and excitement in the space, but we’re now seeing genuine progress with respect to evidence-based, regulated digital health products being deployed and having a positive impact on patients. In addition, there is clear appetite at the patient level, for using digital technologies to improve health, from the ubiquitous consumer-grade wearables, to the growing impact of regulated digital therapeutics created by companies such as WellDoc, Pear Therapeutics, Omada Health and others.
Finally, we are seeing growing acceptance of novel business models and a focus on fee-for-outcomes vs traditional fee-for-procedure/ fee-for-service/ fee-for-product procurement and reimbursement. The FDA pre-certification pilot and the expansion of the CPT codes for Remote Patient Monitoring in the US is a great example of enabling the uptake of new technologies and shifting care from clinic to home via savvy regulation and reimbursement.
What do you believe are the hallmarks of a successful start-up?
In healthcare one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that both voice-of-user
(patient/clinician) and voice-of-customer (payer) are incorporated in the development of products. We see a lot of companies which have undertaken extensive work in voice-of-user, but not consulted with their ultimate customer.
In addition, healthcare is highly regulated, so companies need to have a plan to address regulatory frameworks (note: avoiding them is not a strategy) and to ensure that the regulatory strategy they outline supports their commercialisation objectives and improves their value and competitive advantage.
Finally, a business model that has been validated, market and market access data that has been independently verified, a product that solves a genuine need for both users and customers, and a team that can deliver are universal requirements in successful growth companies.
Do you have any advice to entrepreneurs/tech visionaries?
We’re often told by tech sector participants that “healthcare is no different to any other regulated industry, like fintech.” The other claim we hear a lot is that “digital health is just a part of medtech”. Entrepreneurs (and investors) should be wary of believing these types of claims. In the collective experience of our members and our broader international network, neither hold up to scrutiny.
Patient safety and efficacy is at the heart of healthcare, and there really isn’t a shortcut around the need for clinical evidence and commercial validation. Beyond that, the development and commercialisation pathways for digital health companies are distinctly different to those for medtech companies.
But, as always, the biggest piece of advice lies in people. My recommendation to any innovator seeking to commercialise is to seek out people with proven, demonstrable and independently verifiable experience in the innovator’s chosen area and to do as much due diligence on their advisors and investors as they would a core staff member (noting that innovators may have to look globally for the right people). Good investors and advisors are priceless, those that are not a good fit can cost time, money and resources.
How is Australia placed within the global digital health revolution?
Australia has a long history of global leadership in the development of health technologies which transform lives. Its deep capabilities in health and medical research are augmented by emerging capabilities in technology and a growing number of executives with demonstrable track records in international commercialisation. It is the perfect location to create a world class centre of excellence in the commercialisation of evidence-based digital health technologies.
Recent funding across national and state initiatives, including the Digital Health CRC, will create a pipeline of innovative technologies and spin-out companies and specialised programs such as those provided by ANDHealth and its members contribute knowledge, skills and expertise to commercialisation.
This creates a unique opportunity to build a digital health ecosystem focused on the commercialisation and globalisation of digital health technologies, allowing it to capture the high value jobs, capabilities and investment which will arise from the maturation of the earlier stage programs outlined above.
This has additional benefits of positioning Australia as a hub for international digital health companies looking to pilot and partner in the Asia Pac region.
ANDHealth’s Chief Operating Officer Grace Lethlean will be presenting the ‘Case Study: Business Models in Health Tech and Addressing the User/Payer Tension’ at the Start Ups stream at Australian Healthcare Week on 27 March 2019.