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Budget 2018: AU$100m for Medicare IT and cybersecurity

Technology and science in the medical industry was a major focus in the Australian government’s 2018-19 Budget, with the government providing AU$106.8 million over four years to modernise Medicare’s IT systems.

The funding will also be used to upgrade the systems across the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, aged care, and related payments.

“This measure includes funding for replacing and decommissioning ageing ICT systems, upgrading cybersecurity, and introducing user experience improvements for consumers and providers of health and aged care services,” the Budget documents said.

The government is also providing AU$28.2 million over five years to upgrade the software system being used to prescribe medicines.

“This measure supports a national electronic prescribing system that will contribute to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme efficiency, compliance, drug safety, and data collection,” the government explained.

“The upgrades will make the system more user-friendly and enable prescribers to better identify prescribing options that best meet the needs of their patients, with doctors to retain the final say in advising patients on which medicines to use.”

Under Improving Access to Medicines: E-prescribing for safer medicines, the Department of Health will get AU$13.7 million in 2018-19, AU$2.8 million in 2019-20, and AU$400,000 in 2020-21; while the Department of Human Services (DHS) gets AU$1.7 million in 2018-19, AU$4.3 million in 2019-20, AU$600,000 in 2020-21, and AU$600,000 in 2021-22.

The government’s new 21st Century Medical Industry Growth Plan also gained AU$1.3 billion in funding under the Budget unveiled on Tuesday.

“Tonight we announce a new 21st century medical industry plan to create more jobs in this fast-growing sector of our economy,” Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said in his Budget speech.

“Our plan will provide more support for medical research projects, new diagnostic tools, clinical trials of new drugs, scientific collaboration, and development of new medical technologies that can be sold overseas.”

The plan will ensure Australia is a “global health industry leader in medical technology, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals while improving health outcomes for all Australians through investments in medical innovation”, the Budget documents stated.

The funding for the plan was divided into AU$500 million over 10 years for the Genomics Health Futures Mission and AU$707 million to support the Frontier Health and Medical Research program, clinical trials, Biomedtech programs, and Industry Researcher Collaborations.

Under the plan, the government is also looking to spend AU$30 million on enhancing the data sharing and release capabilities of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The government had also used the 2018-19 Budget to outline its data-sharing framework, saying it would appoint a National Data Commissioner.

Under Delivering Australia’s Digital Future: Data sharing and release arrangements, AU$20.5 million over four years will be provided to establish a new framework for data sharing in response to the recommendations for an open-data practice in response to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry.

The framework will be underpinned by legislation and administered by a newly created National Data Commissioner (NDC), with technical guidance and support to be provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to federal agencies on best practices for de-identifying data prior to release.

“A National Data Commissioner will implement and oversee a simpler, safer, and more efficient government data use framework. The National Data Commissioner will be the trusted overseer of the Government data system, responsible for proactively monitoring the integrity of the system and engaging with the community,” the Budget papers said.

“The NDC will be responsible for developing guidance on data sharing arrangements; monitoring and addressing risks and ethical considerations on data use; and managing the process for high-value datasets.”

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