AITHM James Cook University


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01 February 2022

Digital technology is being harnessed to advance healthcare across Northern Australia, via a Northern Australian Regional Digital Health Platform.

The platform, to be designed with technical and health experts across James Cook University, industry partners including CSIRO and Optus, local business, and regional communities, will create jobs, and address the unique challenges of delivering health care across rural, remote and regional areas.

JCU Professor of Health Systems Strengthening Sarah Larkins said while digital health is a rapidly advancing area, much of this activity has been focussed on metropolitan areas, with little focused effort for application in rural, remote, and regional areas where it has tremendous potential to improve health service delivery.

“There is a growing divide between digitally-enabled cities and Northern Australia’s communities. “Digital health applications have the capacity to help address the impact of distance, socio-economic disadvantage, poorer health outcomes, and the relative under-supply of professionals” Professor Larkins said “The new health platform is expected to support the development of an innovative new high-value health industry in regional Australia, stronger relationships between industry and the university sector, more jobs and improved health outcomes for rural, remote and regional communities.”

The research and development stage of the project is set to begin thanks to a $2m grant awarded in 2021, from the Federal Government’s Strategic University Reform Fund (SURF) which will support JCU to pilot local innovation projects which may then be scaled-up or adopted.

Federal MP for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the investment strengthened JCU’s position as a leader in tropical health and medical research, and said the project would improve health outcomes in communities throughout Northern Australia.

“The research being conducted in North Queensland at JCU, is among the best in the country when it comes to advancing healthcare in the tropical regions of Australia,” Mr Entsch said.

“It is great to see JCU taking these challenges on and through this project I hope we will one day see new digital technologies developed and rolled out to suit the specific needs of individual communities and their residents.”

This platform is expected to add significant value to regional development projects such as TropIQ in Townsville and the Cairns University Hospital’s Innovation Precinct.

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