Wearable technology could improve patients’ quality of life and help medical professionals to provide more tailored care. Associate Professor Vijay Sivaraman discusses the potential benefits, and why widespread adoption could be five years away.
27 June 2016
Cameron Fuller gets excited when he starts talking about digital innovation in Australian healthcare and the many benefits and opportunities it’s opening up for both business operators and their patients.
NAB Health’s recently appointed General Manager recounts a personal experience where a friend, a fit man in his late 20s, was alerted to an underlying heart condition by his Fitbit wristband.
“It was going off the chart with the heart bar constantly spiking,” says Fuller. “When he went to see if he could have it fixed he was told there was nothing wrong with it so he headed straight to the doctor. Within an hour he was in the operating theatre. There was nothing wrong with the device but there was something wrong with him.
“There’s a lot of innovation going on around the wearing of smart devices like that to feed information back to doctors and improve outcome. Plus a lot of innovation around computers and the use of data, like IBM’s Watson that’s providing cognitive technology in cancer care. It’s able to give instantaneous access and understanding of all the medical literature around the world helping doctors navigate that mass of data and help improve clinical outcomes.
Big data brings better patient outcomes
Fuller says one of the key priorities for NAB Health is research and development around how it can harness digital innovation and data to benefit customers’ businesses. “As a bank one of the areas we are really putting resources into is how we use the health data we collect and develop insights that can be of benefit to our customers, being medical practitioners or operators of healthcare businesses, to help them understand and improve and optimise their business,” he says.
Digital technology and its potential applications for improving everything from patient outcomes to business efficiency is a particular passion for Fuller who brings 16 years of experience in the health industry to his new role – both working within the health sector and as a banker specialising in the industry.
Fuller joined NAB in April from ANZ where he was Head of Diversified Industries for the last six years with health a key industry in his portfolio. Previous to joining ANZ he developed strong expertise in the health industry as CFO of Mayne Pharma and Head of Investor Relations for Mayne Group.
He believes his experience working with Mayne has been invaluable in his banking role. “I think that having been able to put yourself in the customer’s shoes is hugely important as a banker,” he says.
“Having been a customer and worked in the industry you have that ability from a banking perspective to better understand what the issues are for the customer what their pain points are, what’s important to them, and obviously to deeply understand the industry that they are operating in with all its complexities.”
Fuller says the health sector is a challenging one to work in but also very fulfilling. “Health has always been very close to my heart having worked in the space,” he says.
“For me the attraction was also its inherent dynamics, its complexity – it’s a growth industry but at the same time it’s defensive. It’s such a broad industry with many different sub sectors and modalities. And importantly it’s about people and is something that everyone can relate to, it affects everybody, everyone is personally touched by the health industry.
“I had a mother who died of heart disease in her 60s, a brother who died of leukaemia in his 40s and a niece who died of cancer in her 20s. So for me personally it’s very fulfilling for me to be in a position to help the industry grow and be more efficient.”
Selling Australian health expertise
Along with digital innovation Fuller sees the growing demand for Australian health expertise overseas, particularly in China, as one of the key opportunities ahead.
He says the export of health knowledge in a professional capacity but also in the operation of hospitals and other healthcare businesses will become increasingly valuable in Australia’s transition to a service led economy.
“Australia is well regarded globally as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, from a clinical outcomes perspective and a balance between the public and private sectors,” says Fuller.
“There is a great opportunity for exporting skills and technology and operational capability to other markets, particularly where they are currently underdeveloped and have strong need with a rising, affluent middle class producing scale – which is exactly what China has.
“With the development of a strong private sector over the last 30 years in Australia we now have some incredible globally leading healthcare companies that are actively exploring and partnering with Chinese partners to provide their world class expertise in areas such as hospital services.”
Fuller says the key to business success in countries such as China is developing relationships.
“Finding the right partners to work with is so important – having the right advice to help them navigate in that market. he says. Businesses need to invest time to build these relationships.”