Published in Australian Doctor, 27 August 2014 by Amanda Sheppeard
Homegrown health-tech heroes
Meet four of Australia’s most innovative doctors in the field of health technology, from the first virtual GP service to a device that provides real-time feedback on pelvic floor exercises, these doctors reveal how their ideas became reality.
From the Hills Hoist clothesline and the glorious wine cask to the life-saving application of penicillin and the development of the bionic ear and the electronic pacemaker, Australians have been dreaming up big ideas in laboratories and backyard sheds for decades.
Despite our relative geographical isolation, Australia has an envied international reputation for its highly skilled IT workforce, and Australian doctors and health professionals are among a groundswell of everyday people identifying a need and finding the IT solution to meet it. Smart Practice meets four of them.
Improvement Foundation: The Vaccine Surveillance System
When non-profit organisation The Improvement Foundation was asked by the WA Department of Health to design and deliver a flu vaccine surveillance system, researchers and designers knew there had to be a simpler and faster process than the existing manual system.
The department had a tight schedule — particularly after the disastrous events of the Fluvax adverse reactions in children in 2010.
The Improvement Foundation didn’t disappoint, says CEO and health management expert Colin Frick. The Vaccine Surveillance System was constructed from concept to ‘go-live’ in just six weeks.
It’s designed to quickly report adverse immunisation reactions, allowing the health department to rapidly identify contaminated or compromised vaccines.
This means at-risk vaccines can be removed from use more quickly and efficiently, says Mr Frick. And patients were also supportive — shortly after the system was launched, WA Health saw a dramatic increase in the number of patients wanting to opt-in to the program.
“Reporting on immunisation has previously been a manual process, requiring vast amounts of people power to proactively telephone and follow up a sample of patients,” he says. “The automation delivered by this solution lets every single patient be followed up, making it more likely that adverse reactions will be reported.”
The system is easy to use and mobile-friendly, and integrates with GP billing software to securely link patients with health practitioners via two-way interactive SMS messaging.
“The app is pretty intuitive and straightforward. It has just dramatically improved the speed to market for alerts.”
The system has earned the foundation a shot at the annual national iAwards for innovation. Mr Frick says the foundation is now focused on the next stage of developing the system.
“We’re looking at the potential to use it more broadly [across other vaccines],” he says.
For more information visit the WAVSS project page.