Victoria and Boston partner to develop new medical solutions
Medical researchers in Victoria, Australia, and world-leading healthcare experts in oncology and paediatric health in Boston, US, are set to partner to deliver and improve new breakthroughs in the treatment of patients in Victoria.
It has been estimated that over 138,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year in Australia, yet the survival rate is high at 68%, according to the Australian Government.
Australian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced two historic partnership agreements with Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the county’s Children’s Hospital, which will build on an existing agreement between the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Victoria’s Peter MacCallum Cancer Center – both world leaders in cancer research, prevention, treatment and care.
“Cancer survival rates in Victoria are among the best in the world. Our partnership with Dana Farber Cancer Institute will help save even more lives by working together on future medical breakthroughs,” commented Hennessy.
Researchers from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center and Dr Elaine Sanij are set to visit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in May to work with the world’s leaders in DNA repair therapies in ovarian cancer, which will support Australia’s own clinical trials and advanced research in this field.
Dr Sanij has recently received a High Commendation in Peter Mac’s Lea Award, which recognises emerging female researchers in their early to mid-career and provides support to take part in career advancement opportunities.
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In addition, a number of concrete actions under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne were agreed.
The world’s best practice and expertise in paediatric health, collaboration on research, exchange programs and innovations will now be shared with Victorian researchers.
This includes working with the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement on a core set of global standards for paediatrics, improving safety and quality of care for the youngest patients around the world.
An international working group of patients, parents and leading clinicians and academics will establish key areas of research that matter most to families.
These projects were finalised as part of a delegation to the USA to strengthen international ties between Victoria and some of the world’s most prestigious health and medical research institutions. Engagements with prominent biotech and pharmaceutical companies will also help create jobs and drive investment at home.
Australia’s vision is to become a global exporter of healthcare services and research for the future, outlined through its Labor Government’s International Health Strategy 2016-2020. The healthcare sector provides a significant boost to the local economy of up to AUD$30bn and is responsible for up to 130,000 jobs within Victoria.
NHSX releases new data plans, experts call for transparency
Patients in England will get "greater control" over their health and care data according to new proposals set out by the government.
In a new draft strategy called "Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data", Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock says that more effective use of data will deliver better patient-focused care. "This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position."
Under the new plans people will be able to access their medical records from different parts of the health system through different applications, to access test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans.
The strategy, published by NHSX, the government department that sets policies for the use of technology within the NHS, follows delays to the creation of a central database of patient records amid concerns over data sharing and a lack of transparency, with critics saying that only a small proportion of the public were made aware of the plans and the choice to opt out.
Kevin Curran, senior member of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and Professor of Cybersecurity at the University of Ulster, says that moving health records online raises concerns. "The move to an online app does seem like a natural progression, however there is a difference between having computerised records within our healthcare IT infrastructure and having those records reside on a public facing server.
"Having records inhouse limits the range and type of access – it's far more difficult for remote hackers" Curran said. "There are techniques that healthcare organisations can use to reduce the risk of future data breaches. One way is to make it ‘opt in’, so patients have the choice to decide whether their medical information is moved to a public facing service so that they can access it.
"However, those who do not opt in or download the app instead should have their records hosted in a non-public-facing cloud service. This way, if a data breach does occur, those who never used the app, or not wanted to, will not have had their details released."
The new strategy has been welcomed by some, with an emphasis on the need for transparency. Adam Steventon, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: "Health data has played a critical role in the last year – from tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and developing treatments, to getting people booked in for their vaccines. It is critical that the use of data is accelerated if the NHS is to tackle the backlog of care and address the massive health challenges facing the country.
"It is particularly positive that the government has committed to building analytical and data science capability in the NHS and to improving data on social care. To ensure the full potential of data can be realised, the government must ensure transparency on how it will be used and the rights and options people have, as well as engaging with the public and health care professionals to build trust and show people how their data can improve the NHS and save lives."