Health IT: Club Med

While IT is extremely important to a functioning health system, it’s not particularly sexy. It’s the clever technology, the innovative gadgets and the ground-breaking procedures that tend to capture our imaginations when it comes to medicine. So here are some of Idealog’s favourite locally-developed ideas from the health sector.

​The OpthalmicDocs Fundus (oDocs) is the world’s first open-sourced smartphone based retina camera. Developed by ophthalmologist Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, the eye examination kit combines a phone adapter and app, allowing users to examine the eye with minimal training. By using the phone’s camera to look through a condensing lens, users can view the retina with a 40-degree field of view including the back, which is the most difficult area to view. The app is free and the kit 3D printable, putting the portable eye clinic into the hands of doctors in remote communities that are hard to reach with traditional bulky ophthalmic equipment.

Kode Biotech has found a new way to take on cancer cells. Steve Henry, CEO and chief science officer of Kode Biotech and professor of biotech innovation at AUT, invented Kode and developed it with UK pharmaceutical company Agalimmune as a new cancer treatment. Harmless synthetic animal antigens are used to modify the cancer cell surface membrane and encourage the body’s natural immune system to respond. When it does, it notices the cancer cells and fights them as well. Not only does the treatment notify the immune system about tumors, it also teaches it to look out for them in the future. This year Agalimmune will begin human testing.

Clever MedKit is an intelligent first aid kit providing a solution to the problems experienced with traditional office first aid kits. It separates different items such as band-aids and ice packs and tracks the items used for an incident to record stock numbers. When stock is low Clever MedKits will send more. Its bold design, including a light, makes it easy to find, and incident push buttons identify which items are required according to the injury. Clever MedKit also reports incidents making them immediately available on computers and mobiles.

SPARX online self-help tool, by a team of researchers and clinicians at The University of Auckland, is the solution for young people who don’t seek help for depression. By incorporating techniques usually used during therapy sessions into a fantasy game format, users learn new skills that will help them feel better, solve problems and enjoy life in the real world. Inside the game, users create an avatar, which they use to journey through provinces, and complete quests that restore the world’s balance and defeat pesky negative thoughts called Gnats. To assess whether or not SPARX will be a helpful tool, users can complete a “mood quiz” on the game’s website.

FCB New Zealand created an online tool called “The Journal” for the National Depression Initiative. It is a free self-help tool for those suffering from mild to moderate depression, guiding them through evidence-based techniques to help them stay positive, improve mental health and solve the problems that can cause mental health. Throughout it, John Kirwan is on hand to educate them about solutions and give practical tasks and exercises to encourage lifestyle changes. Emails and texts are also sent to users reminding them of each lesson and its accompanying activity.

One Visit Crown is taking the hassle out of getting a dental crown by doing the job in one visit. Pre-made ceramic crowns, of different sizes, come with a finished top and uncured base to be placed on the patient’s tooth. When placed, the soft base forms an exact impression of the stump, which is then removed, trimmed and bonded in place. By fitting it in one visit, the cost of the crown, which can be up to $1500, is halved. Dr Adam Doudney came up with the idea before it was developed by Dr Simon McDonald and his researchers at Rhondium, a Tauranga dental technology company.

Aranz Medical has developed a wound assessment system providing a solution to practitioners who often inspect patient wounds without specialised wound knowledge. The Silhouette system offers a way to systematically and easily collect accurate wound images and data, including measurements and healing trends. Its accuracy allows practitioners to detect small changes in wound size resulting in earlier intervention from practitioners and the quality of evidence it provides leads to better-informed decision making by doctors.

StretchSense is enabling the development of wearable technologies with its movement measuring sensors. Described as rubber bands with Bluetooth, when placed on the body the sensors move with the wearer and measure the amount of movement but how much the sensor stretches. The data is transmitted to the user’s mobile or tablet, providing real-time motion feedback for the user. A spin-off from the Biometrics Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, StretchSense sensors have been customised and integrated into smart technologies across the world, including gaming, sports and rehabilitation.

This is an addendum to our comprehensive article on Health IT which can be read here.