Health is one of the largest sectors of the Australian economy and has grown rapidly over the last decade, reflecting an increase in demand due to the ageing of the Australian population and rising wealth nationwide. This trend is expected to continue as Australia’s population continues to age and the rate of chronic and complex disease and disability rises.
This growth in health care spending is supported by Medicare, Australia’s universal public medical insurance scheme, and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which subsidises the cost of medicines for all Australians. These two publicly funded schemes date back to the 1980s (Medicare) and the 1940s (the PBS). They are very popular with the Australian community and are supported by all sides of politics.
These public funding systems operate in conjunction with private health insurance to support both public health services and a diverse and vibrant private health sector. This creates a stable funding environment for health and medical businesses looking to invest in Australia.
Australia’s health sector is renowned for its high technological and regulatory standards, skilled professional workforce and a culture of research and innovation. In particular, Australia is a global leader in the development of e-health solutions and is internationally recognised for its innovation in the medical devices sector. It also has a strong pharmaceutical manufacturing base and an active biotech industry.
World-leading Australian health and medical companies include innovators such as Cochlear, CSL and Resmed as well as health care providers like Sonic, Primary and Ramsay. These operate alongside global multinational companies which have invested in Australia, such as Pfizer, Eli Lilley, Stryker and Johnson and Johnson. There is also a diverse small and medium enterprise sector consisting of junior biotechnology and medical device companies in various stages of research, development and commercialisation, as well as a significant number of companies who supply technology, products and services to the health care industry.
Due to Australia’s geographically dispersed population, it has well-developed health IT infrastructure and is a global leader in areas such as telehealth, health messaging and electronic health record architecture.
Increased global harmonisation between Australian and international regulatory systems facilitates integration across markets.
Australia also has a large natural and complementary medicines sector with domestic sales of over $1 billion per year. This is a rapidly growing area of health with a growth rate of seven per cent per annum. Three-quarters of Australians already take at least one dietary supplement and, with an increasing focus on preventive health, demand for natural health products is expected to increase significantly. As an advanced industry with unparalleled biodiversity, Australia provides unique opportunities to the natural and complementary health care sector.
With its highly skilled workforce, stable funding and regulatory environment, well-developed IT infrastructure and unique geographic position, the Australian health sector offers invaluable opportunities for companies seeking to access markets across the Asia-Pacific, North Asian and Indian region.