Australia invests in seven research projects using data to improve primary care

By | June 29, 2021

The Australian government has set aside a combined investment of AU$ 12.9 million ($ 9.78 million) in seven research projects that leverage data to enhance the primary care system in the country. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The 2020 Primary Healthcare Research Data Infrastructure grants support projects to improve residential aged care, urban and rural general practitioner-led practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and other health professionals such as nurses, midwives, allied health, pharmacists and dentists.

Among the seven projects, the South Australian Health Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), an independent research institute based in Adelaide, will receive AU$ 2 million ($ 1.5 million) for its Registry of Senior Australians (ROSA) project.

According to a statement by Health Minister Greg Hunt, SAHMRI wants to expand the registry to “understand emerging issues” and continue researching on “key and currently unknown” residential aged care impacts.

It will use new data gathered on immunisation, rehabilitation and social welfare to further research and “embed ROSA as the only national data solution for policy and practice change in residential aged care”. ROSA’s model collates diverse datasets from different organisations across Australia to form a “whole picture of the ageing pathway”.

Monash University is also receiving AU$ 2 million ($ 1.5 million) for its upcoming digital health solution providing “critical” information during the transfer of people living in residential aged care.

In a separate statement, Nadine Andrew, an associate professor from Monash University’s Peninsula Clinical School, noted the “lack of coordination” of residential aged care residents’ data. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, hastened their movement between care institutions “with little or no accompanying information”.

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Given that, the project aims to “transform primary care data for aged care residents in a way that can be commonly understood by a range of end-users,” Andrew said.

The University of Adelaide, meanwhile, will also get AU$ 2 million ($ 1.5 million) for its Imagendo project to benefit women and girls with endometriosis. Powered by AI, the project will use ultrasound and MRI imaging to create diagnostic algorithms that can estimate in real-time the likelihood of a patient having endometriosis.

Other institutions receiving government grants for their research include:

  • The University of Queensland for a project improving surveillance infrastructure for indigenous primary health care; 

  • The University of Melbourne for its Platform to Enhance Prostate Cancer Shared Care Integration; 

  • Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services for a collaborative project that will create the Kimberley Health Evidence Data Platform; and

  • Menzies School of Health Research for its research titled “Territory Integrated Care: Primary health data Linkage Using Software”.

THE LARGER TREND

The Primary Healthcare Research Data Infrastructure grants are provided under the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MMFF), which was established in 2015. The fund provides support in four research areas: patients, researchers, research missions and research translation, under which are 20 initiatives.

Earlier this month, the government reported that it has set aside AU$ 11.7 million in five medical research projects to help reduce medication harm.

Also recently, a team of researchers from the University of Western Australia received a grant under the MMFF to develop an AI-based tool that can predict the risk of coronary heart disease from heart CT scans.

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