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CSIRO takes a look at Australia's health future

CSIRO has undertaken a highly consultative process to develop this report which aims to shape future investments in the health system. This report was informed by views of over 30 organisations from all sides of health, including government, health insurers, educators, researchers and professional bodies.

Where is Australia now?

Australians rank amongst the healthiest in the world with our health system one of the most efficient and equitable. However, the nation's strong health outcomes hide a few alarming facts: 

  • Australians spend on average 11 years in ill health - the highest among OECD countries
  • 63% (over 11 million) of adult Australians are considered overweight or obese
  • There is a 10-year life expectancy gap between the health of non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • 60% of the adult population have low levels of health literacy 
  • The majority of Australians do not consume the recommended number of serves from any of the five food groups. 

What challenges do we face?

Changing national health profile

Increasing needs to support the ageing and the rise of chronic disease require resources and investment. However, this requirement will compete with emerging impacts of climate change, biosecurity threats and the rise of rare diseases.

Inequity in access and experience

Improvements in national health outcomes will require providing access to quality health services for all Australians. 

Consumer behaviour and trust

Consumers are demanding more from their healthcare experiences and embracing new technology for low-risk decision making relating to their health.

Adjusting to an increasingly digital world

Trust in data sharing, digital and health literacy, data ownership, system interoperability, and Australia’s current digital infrastructure present as key barriers to a more integrated and data-enabled health system.

Fragmented and inflexible health systems

Barriers to an integrated health services model include multiple and complex funding arrangements, siloed data streams, everevolving regulatory requirements, and dated infrastructure.

Unsustainable financing

Healthcare costs and the dependency ratio continue to rise, placing significant financial pressure on all stakeholders. Some solutions are gaining traction, however require significant changes to financing structures, cultures, and expensive initial outlays.

A vision for Australian health

A shift in focus for Australia's health system.

Value will be rewarded over volume, consumers will be empowered and viewed as a valuable health resource, humanity and relationships will be essential elements of care, and technology will be used to decrease costs and increase access to care.

[Music plays and an image appears of a female bike rider laying on a path next to her bike and the camera zooms in on the bike rider and text appears: Impact Data Detected, Response Call Activated, No Response, Ambulance Dispatched]

Narrator: What is the future of health?

[Images move through of an Ambulance Driver looking at a Smartphone, the bike rider’s accident information on the Smartphone, and the ambulance driving off]

It’s a place where technology and people work together…

[Image changes to show a male laying in a bed in front of a large Smart screen displaying sleep information]

Digital Voice: Good morning Bianco. You slept well last night.

[Image shows the male getting up and then looking at the screen which is displaying an itinerary]

Narrator: …where there is help when we need it?

Digital Voice: Here is your itinerary for the day.

[Image changes to show the male walking towards the bathroom]

First up, morning shower.

[Images move through of a pregnant female cutting an avocado, a female operating a Smart screen displaying nutritional requirements, and then the female touching the pregnant female’s tummy]

Narrator: …where real time data give us the information we need to take care of those we love

[Music plays and the camera zooms in on both the females’ hands on the pregnant female’s tummy]

[Image changes to show a final notice reminder on a Smartphone screen and then the image shows the male looking at the Smartphone screen displaying a Mental Health check-up reminder]

and make sure we’re all supported.

[Image changes to show the male’s face and then the camera zooms out to show the male at the kitchen table and two school boys in the kitchen]

[Music plays and the image changes to show a female medical officer sitting at a desk and working on a Smart screen installed in the desk]

[Images move through of a High Risk Booking display on a Smart screen, a nurse attending to a patient looking at an image of an arm on a tablet, and colleagues looking at the same image on a Smart screen]

The future is sharing information,

[Music plays and the camera zooms in on the colleagues looking at the screen and images move through of a female in a hospital bed looking at the tablet, and then a male smiling]

expanding our support networks,

[Music plays and images move through of an elderly male and a young male moving their arms in exercising motions, and a female receiving a parcel, and swiping a Smartwatch to sign for the parcel]

streamlined systems,

[Music plays and images move through of the female carrying the parcel into the house and the female looking at her a message on her Smartwatch]

[Images move through of a male in a consultation with medical staff, the male smiling, health data on the Smartscreen, and then a female and her companion looking at an ultrasound display of a baby]

and health management plans tailored to you because we are all unique.

[Music plays and the camera zooms in on both females smiling and then the image changes to show the elderly male looking at a Smart screen displaying cognitive testing information]

[Images move through of a female looking at a Smartphone while walking a dog, the cognitive testing results of her father displayed on the Smartphone screen and the female smiling]

[Images move through of a female doing exercises in front of a Smartscreen displaying a medical practitioner demonstrating the exercises and the camera zooms in on the female’s face]

[Images move through of a box of fruit and vegetables, a male throwing a carrot to one of three boys in a kitchen, two females leaving a hospital, and a Smartphone displaying feedback information]

And the best part about the future of health is that you’re at the heart of it all.

[Music plays and images move through of different people smiling at the camera one after the other]

Future of health.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Future of health]

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How do we enable the shift?

To achieve the vision, change is required

Digital technologies could assist many of the necessary changes, complementing the role of health professionals and providing consumers with greater autonomy in their health and wellbeing management. However the sector will also need to consider how to facilitate greater uptake of novel and effective health solutions; how to provide health professionals and organisations with the necessary support required to successfully navigate change; the system changes required to securely unlock value from the growing volume of personal health information being generated; and opportunities for divesting away from obsolete or lower value health solutions.

Five key enablers are discussed in this report:

  • Empowered customers
  • Addressing health inequity
  • Unlocking the value of digitised data
  • Supporting integrated and precision health solutions
  • Integrating with the global sector

Read our insights on Australia's vision towards a new approach to health

We're working towards a new approach for healthcare in Australia. You can read more below:

Follow #CSIROFoH or #FutureofHealth on Twitter

Do business with us to help Australia reach a future of health

We partner with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the world.

For information on how to partner with us, contact Peter Kambouris on Peter.Kambouris@csiro.au.