Tech

Best tech-driven solutions for healthcare problems wanted

Virtual Medical Coaching uses virtual reality for students to learn and practice essential healthcare skills in a realistic environment, but without any risk.

Virtual Medical Coaching/Supplied

Virtual Medical Coaching uses virtual reality for students to learn and practice essential healthcare skills in a realistic environment, but without any risk.

Four months ago, Christchurch-based healthtech business owner James Hayes woke up to more than 50 emails from universities and hospitals all asking the same question.

How can their students access his learning software now coronavirus lockdown has made it impossible for students to attend their practical learning sessions?

Hayes has been using various aspects of technology like algorithms, virtual reality and simulation technology for years to reinvent the way healthcare students learn their skills.

His company, Virtual Medical Coaching, offers technology-based learning solutions for students and training institutes.

This includes using virtual reality to allow medical students to “deliver a baby” without stepping foot inside a hospital. Simulation training allows students to practice their surgical skills in a very realistic environment, but without any danger.

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A virtual reality operating theatre allows a radiographer, scrub nurse or anaesthetic technician to perform tasks they would do in real life, but in an operating theatre that has visible and audible radiation to improve their radiation safety practices.

When Covid-19 unexpectedly compelled all learning institutions to move to distance learning, demand for Virtual Medical Coaching’s already sought-after products soared.

“My inbox was flooded with requests,” Hayes said.

“But there was a cost involved – VR headsets and a computer can cost approximately $2000 per student, which just wasn’t feasible or equitable.”

Again Hayes and his team had to think outside the box to adapt to the situation. His team of developers created a desktop version of the simulation, where students could use a keyboard to navigate, rather than a headset.

“I think some of my developers stopped talking to me as this was a downgrade in terms of the technology we are able to deliver. But it was worth it. It’s being used around the world and has meant hundreds of students have been able to continue their study,” said Hayes.

Ara

A virtual reality (VR) birthing scenario was trialled by nursing and midwifery students at Ara Institute of Canterbury in November 2019 and was set to be officially rolled out in early 2020. (Video first published in November 2019)

RETHINKING HEATHCARE CHALLENGES

Hayes’s innovative, solution-driven thinking is exactly the type of thing the HealthTech Supernode Challenge is looking for, said Kylie Yardley, content producer at ChristchurchNZ.

The HealthTech Supernode Challenge is delivered by Ministry of Awesome and the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship with support from ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet, and Ryman Healthcare.

The challenge aims to identify and generate commercially viable solutions that address real healthcare problems. The challenge is open to anyone with a healthtech innovation or idea, from students and startups to researchers, and healthcare professionals.

Owner of Virtual Medical Coaching, James Hayes.

Virtual Medical Coaching/Supplied

Owner of Virtual Medical Coaching, James Hayes.

Applicants enter their idea, explain the problem they want to solve and what their proposed solution is, who their potential customers might be and how they will make money from this idea.

Up to 20 semi-finalists will then be chosen to take part in the HealthTech Supernode Challenge virtual pre-accelerator programme, which is an opportunity to work alongside some of the brightest minds in New Zealand’s healthcare sector to turn the ideas into a commercially viable solutions.

Applicants can enter into one of three categories: Aged care, Rural care, or the Open category which is for technical solutions to healthcare problems across any specialisation.

There’s a cash prize package of $40,000 to be split between finalists as well as an automatic invitation to take part in the ongoing incubation programme at Te Ōhaka or ThincLab.

The HealthTech Supernode Challenge is delivered by Ministry of Awesome and the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship with support from ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet, and Ryman Healthcare. (File photo)

University of Canterbury/Supplied

The HealthTech Supernode Challenge is delivered by Ministry of Awesome and the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship with support from ChristchurchNZ, KiwiNet, and Ryman Healthcare. (File photo)

The overall winner will also have the opportunity of potential seed funding from WNT Ventures, as well as a potential market validation contract with Canterbury District Health Board which provides opportunity for startups to perform customer discovery, product, and market validation.

If applicable to aged care, the winner will also be granted exclusive access to Ryman Healthcare’s innovation team.

Judges include microbiologist and media commentator Dr Siouxsie Wiles and Ian Town, New Zealand’s chief science advisor at the Ministry of Health.

Visit the website for more information and to apply: https://www.healthtechchallenge.co.nz. Applications close on August 16.

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