6 teams, 48 hours, the Future of Healthcare

17 May 2019

Over the weekend, an energetic group of 23 University of Canterbury and University of Otago students challenged themselves to solve some of the pressing issues facing the Health sector in Canterbury and New Zealand, at the third UCE disrupt challenge for 2019.

  • 48 Hour Health Challenge Mentor

    A challenge team receives some quick-fire advice from Christiaan Gough during the speed mentoring session.

48 Health Challenge Winning Team 2019

Winning team, the Neurones, with the judges. Left to right: Vince Barry, Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll, Claudia Prasad, Mo Li, Brittany Taylor, Ashton Blake-Barlow and Gavin Wright.

The 48-Hour Health Challenge, held in collaboration with Te Papa Haoroa (the Health Precinct Advisory Council), involved two questions being posed to each team, who could select one to work on over the weekend.

The first option was to develop a strategy to help improve the patient experience when interacting with the health sector’s complex, and sometimes confusing, group of organisations and institutions.

The other question asked students to devise a venture that will improve the population’s health and reduce the number of preventable illnesses, such as smoking-related or obesity-related disease, that place a large burden on the health system.

The students involved in the challenge came from a huge range of fields of study, including health science, medicine, sports coaching, law, data science, biochemistry and commerce!

The breadth of expertise held by the participants was reflected in the huge variety of solutions presented, which ranged from portable diagnostic kits to give the rural population better access to health care, a hologram to welcome and guide patients through hospitals, a voice controlled app to give the elderly health advice at home, and Health Pods which provide health advice simply by scanning your body.

At the end of the weekend, each team had to present their concept to an expert judging panel of Gavin Wright, founder of Fraame Healthcare, Vince Barry, CEO at Pegasus Health, and Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll, a lecturer in Māori Health and Wellbeing at the University of Canterbury.

The judges were very impressed with the high quality of the teams’ pitches, especially given the short time frame in which they were developed. Sue Rogers, the Executive Officer of the Health Precinct Advisory Council, said the challenge “was well run by the UCE team, with a great bunch of engaging students and exciting ideas that were well presented”

UCE congratulates the winning teams, who won cash prizes:

First place: The Neurones
Did you know that there is a micro community of organisms in your stomach that work together to break down your food and ensure you get the nutrients you need? This micro community is informally known as your gut microbiome, and team ‘The Neurones’ believes they can manipulate it to tackle New Zealand’s obesity epidemic.

Key to The Neurons solution was the identification of obesity indicators at a young age through microbiome sampling. From there, individuals with a high risk of obesity would be prescribed personalised probiotics to reduce the likelihood of obesity.

Runners-up: FROGS
Team FROGS proposes the use of a genetic algorithm in the health sector to predict the future health of both individuals and society as a whole. The algorithms which use data from a wide range of sources to predict future health risks, and advise on treatment and funding allocation before illness occurs. What about patient confidentiality you may may ask? Well Team FROGs has you covered, as blockchain technology would be used to ensure all private health forecasts are kept private.

We asked Ashton Blake-Barlow, a Medical student at the University of Otago, about his challenge experience. He told us “the 48-Hour Health Challenge was a roller coaster of a weekend - challenging and stressful at times, but super rewarding and enjoyable. I think the Challenge it is a great opportunity for medical students, as it helps us learn how to collaborate with other professions and learn different ways of thinking.

I learnt a lot about how others think and frame ideas, and about myself and how I work under pressure. Our team quickly learnt how to collaborate and play to each others strengths, which is very important for the future when healthcare becomes even more collaborative. I would recommend the Health Challenge to anyone thinking about getting involved next year, if not for the professional development, then for the food!”

UCE provides a dedicated, student-focused space where innovation can flourish, stimulating the development of entrepreneurs through a combination of research, teaching and community engagement.

If you are interested in participating in a future UCE disrupt challenge, find out more here, or contact Hannah Rhodes at hannah.rhodes@canterbury.ac.nz.