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Healthcare innovation for better patient outcomes

As Jean-Frédéric Levesque outlines his strategy for the Clinical Innovation and Research Division of NSW Health, patient focussed solutions and translational research have been flagged as a top priority.

How can we harness phage therapies to save lives, as antibiotics become less effective? Or further tailor cancer treatments to target specific pieces of genetic code? These and other ground-breaking health priorities have been on our radar in the first six months since we established the Clinical Innovation and Research Division in the NSW Ministry of Health.  

As Deputy Secretary of the Division, I draw on a global career spanning medicine, research and public health across diverse geographical locations including Australia, Canada, the UK and India. I am committed to actively shaping the NSW Health landscape, leveraging our vast expertise for ground-breaking research, innovation and system analysis, while engaging in best global practice.  

Patient-Centred Care
Improving patient outcomes and experiences is at the heart of all that we do. Central to our vision are new models of person-centred care, to provide patients with greater healthcare options and agency in their treatment. For example, to ensure we receive ongoing feedback from patients, we have introduced a platform called Health Outcomes and Patient Experience (HOPE), which makes surveys far more accessible. Patients can now complete surveys electronically, at home on their own device, on an iPad in a clinic waiting room or during a home visit or with the help of staff during a consultation.    

Cultural sensitivity and addressing needs of those in rural and indigenous communities are also an important part of our person-centred vision. There is valuable insight to be gained and shared from co-designing NSW health services to deliver culturally appropriate care. The Yellow Gum Healing Alcohol and Drug Cognitive Enhancement (ACE) Pilot Program is an example of how we have updated a successful, well-established drug and alcohol treatment program to ensure it is more culturally respectful. The improvements were co-designed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural advisers and the program now includes use of storytelling, yarning circles and walks through the bush.  

L-R: Adjunct Professor Jean-Frédéric Levesque, Sean Kelly and Kim Sutherland

The Changing Face of Healthcare 
Technology is paving the way for a quantum shift in how healthcare is delivered, creating shifts towards more proactive preventative strategies for patients as well as acute care outside of the hospital walls. Digital health, genomics, artificial intelligence (AI), and Big Data are at the forefront of this new frontier. They are opening doors to innovations in clinical care and exciting solutions to address system-wide health-care challenges as well as improved detection, prevention and management of health conditions. For example, our NSW Telestroke Service has provided 24/7 access for thousands of patients, to improve stroke diagnosis and treatment via video consultation that connects local doctors to specialist stroke physicians. This translates to faster, more accurate diagnosis and improved health outcomes. 

NSW Health is a major player in digital health strategies and advanced clinical trials. We are harnessing existing and emerging technologies to address antimicrobial resistance, cure genetic diseases and treat cancers based on their individual biomarkers. Building on these capabilities we will effect even greater change to bridge the gap between research breakthroughs and their practical applications.  

Translating research to new therapies 
Our Division is committed to supporting a pipeline of vigorously evaluated, novel research to drive cutting edge therapies. One recent example is our work on immune effector cell treatments, for people with particular blood diseases. This project involved collaboration with clinicians, researchers, and key partners in centres across NSW. These connections ensured all teams had the necessary technology, procedures and workforce skills in place to implement immune effector cell therapies. The therapies harness a person’s own T cells to launch an immune defence. They have shown promising results, including a 5-year relative survival rate of up to 90% for children and adults with B cell haematological cancers.  

Looking further ahead, our long-term strategy includes placing NSW firmly on the global health innovation map, particularly in clinical trials and translational research. To achieve this aim, we will foster partnerships with innovative leaders worldwide, and with regions facing similar health and social challenges to our own.  

Rising to the covid challenge 
The past decade has seen remarkable progress in healthcare; globally, within Australia and within NSW. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the vital role of swift adaptation and creative problem-solving in addressing public health challenges. High-quality research, clinical trial infrastructure, and a skilled workforce in the pharmaceutical industry assisted us to address this challenge. This swift, effective response not only saved lives, it set new benchmarks in healthcare and was a reminder of the power of health teams working in alliance. 

Cutting edge collaboration
To increase our scope and impact, the Clinical Innovation and Research Division has formed a partnership between the Office of Health and Medical Research and the Agency for Clinical Innovation. By bringing these two organisations together, we consolidate an impressive breadth and depth of expertise, creating immense opportunity to leverage a natural synergy and support an integrated collaboration with our local districts and academic partners. 
Our combined teams are dedicated to creating a new pathway and driving force for effective collaborations to progress research and innovation towards spread and scale. We are actively working on strengthening our ties with academic institutions, healthcare providers and industry. In the process, we will continue to build on learnings embedded within our successful programs in commercialisation, translation, capacity building, clinical trials and knowledge brokerage. By directing our resources to match specific and general healthcare and system priorities, we address gaps and fragmentation. We also identify emerging opportunities to support and harness ingenuity, inspiration and ideas from clinicians, scientists and industry.  
Embracing partnerships and true collaboration allows us to promote a culture of mutual learning and growth, bringing unique and varied perspectives into our research and healthcare ecosystem, and ensuring those innovations reach patients. 

New technology, ethics and data protection 
Our funding programs and data protections must be adaptive, agile, flexible, strategic and responsive to system needs, providing the necessary support for emerging research areas. The increasing reliance on digital health technologies brings data integrity and privacy into sharp focus. Ensuring our regulations and practices are up to the task is not just a responsibility, but a priority. To meet these needs, we will lead discussions around establishing robust regulatory frameworks that protect privacy, uphold ethical conduct and enable the effective and secure use of our data assets with the core goals of protecting and improving patient wellbeing.  

Updated 8 months ago