Hacking their way to healthcare solutions

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A team developing a wearable device to improve patient compliance and treatment outcomes for knee rehabilitation after a reconstruction has won the inaugural Johnson & Johnson HaTCHathon.

The HaTCHathon, which stands with the Heath and Technology Challenge, was recently hosted in Sydney by Janssen and J&J Medical Devices.

The ‘KneeHab’ team received the top prize of $8,000 and the opportunity to work with the Johnson & Johnson Australia companies, which will consider commercialising their idea that could potentially assist the more than 54,000 Australians that undertake knee reconstructive surgery each year.

The judging panel included senior representatives from Johnson & Johnson, health insurer Medibank Private and analytics company Lorica Health.

“Our idea was built on using a high precision motion measuring device that everyone could access – a smartphone. We knew we didn’t need to develop a separate wearable device as the majority of Australians now own a smartphone,” said KneeHab's Adam Pryor.

“The program measures the performance and progress of a patient’s rehab, with reports sent to healthcare professionals and carers to ensure they are following their treatment plan. We wanted to help people stay motivated with their at-home rehab, ultimately leading to a better quality of life for patients, reducing the costs and overall disease burden,” he added.

According to the judges, “The winning team had an idea that appears to really hit a sweet spot in the market and addressed a particular problem on how to curb the rising costs of healthcare, and to involve the patient in their own care and rehabilitation.”

“The HaTCHathon event drew over 55 of the country’s brightest minds to work with our mentors to spur breakthrough innovation that will benefit both patients and the strained health care system,” said Bruce Goodwin, managing director of Janssen.

“Australia is struggling to build a sustainable economy at a time of profound challenges and opportunities driven by digital disruption and an ageing population. As people live longer, health challenges such as chronic diseases become more prevalent, and they want to remain active and productive members of our society.

“Right now we are in the perfect storm for breakthrough innovation and we were very excited to see the creative solutions that were presented by the participants,” he added.

Runner-up ‘JAX’ developed a prototype electronic monitoring device – called ‘Forget Me Not’ – that tracks when elderly patients, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, have taken their medication.

“Our research showed that the elderly are not adhering to medication protocols, with carers often having to micro-manage their medicine consumption. By having limited connectivity to healthcare professions and being unable to remotely monitor whether a loved one has taken their medicine, we knew this was a problem that needed a solution,” said Astrid Jonelynas from JAX.

“Our Forget Me Not pill box monitoring device provides immediate, real-time feedback to carers when their loved one has taken their medication. This improves convenience and reduces worry and stress for carers.”

“The core purpose of the HaTCHathon event, beyond the innovative solutions it delivered, was to inspire and excite innovation in Australian healthcare more broadly. Australia is home to some amazing innovators, problem solvers and entrepreneurs, who will be key to facing the challenges of the future,” said Gavin Fox-Smith, managing director of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices.

“We are passionate about finding and deploying comprehensive, integrated healthcare solutions that take into account the world in which we live today. This is why the HaTCHathon event focused on innovations that address disease along the entire spectrum of health.

“Great ideas can come from anywhere, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of these collaborative minds and whether they can become a commercial reality, over the next six weeks.”