Australia should be supporting young health professionals (including pharmacists) who have skills in innovation and entrepreneurship that would improve our health systems, create disruptive businesses models that would prevent organisations such as Colesworth from contemplating a takeover and also to drive Australia’s economy in its transition from a resource-based economy to a service-based economy.
Australia has a range of innovative “firsts” in both medicine and pharmacy systems, but there has not been a recognised leadership body championing or encouraging new developments.
Pharmacists sometimes lack the networking skills required to assemble all the elements to bring a product to life within a marketplace.
Universities were similarly placed, sometimes losing $’s millions through not properly registering intellectual property developed through their own research that was later picked up by some other commercial entity who could create clarity of title in their own name.
Now they have a separate business unit in corporate format that employs skilled people in legal and accounting fields to secure all knowledge products developed by a university.
Areas like the field of genomics are creating an unlimited vista of development and creativity potential for pharmacists.
The more wealth that can be created within the pharmacy profession the more opportunity is created for newly graduating pharmacists as well as established pharmacists, removing pressure from community pharmacies as being a sole opportunity for employment or investment.
This ability to generate jobs within entirely different pharmacy activities needs to be investigated more widely as a part-solution to just one of the industry’s difficulties.
Doctors are already engaged in innovation and entrepreneurship which has led to the development of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SoPE) — an international network to help doctors and other health professionals innovate in health care. SoPE has been involved in the development of a Society for International Bioentrepreneurship Education and Research.
In 2013 the Department of Health and Ageing’s McKeon Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research, encouraged the embedding of research and innovation in the health system. The review promoted strategies such as the development of integrated health research centres, inclusion of research objectives in the key performance indicators for local hospital networks, enhancement of health service innovation research, and support for the commercialisation of research through increased funding and internship programs.
With the idea of a clinical pharmacist being able to practice from one or more clinical spaces (community pharmacy, GP clinic, hospital) there is a further opportunity for education to be decentralised into regional groupings.
Embedded within such regional groupings ought to be an innovation driver creating commercialisation opportunities for intellectual property.
Doctors have already looked at a project going one step further called the Innovation Scholar Program aimed at offering doctors hands-on bio-entrepreneurship experience through practicums with biomedical companies.
The program offers a 1-year apprenticeship-type model where the junior physician is linked to a biomedical company, a mentor, a university curriculum and a project.
What a great idea!
However, the recent federal Budget cuts to scientific research, including leading organisations such as the CSIRO, Australian Research Council and others, have fuelled uncertainty. Although the government has announced plans for a Medical Research Future Fund, it will be many years before it will be operating.
Australia’s future as a leader in health innovation cannot be realised without investment. Health workers who want to make their contribution to innovation and entrepreneurship need robust mentorship structures, workplace experience, and a network of well funded research facilities.
It is essential that the Australian Government continues to invest in a more diverse future health research workforce.