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Digital doctors’ HealthPod puts healthcare in the community

19 May 2020

Imagining a HealthPod located in the community, where patients with chronic illnesses could more easily monitor their symptoms, has won a team of health students the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) Digital Doctors Disrupt Challenge for 2020.


Team Florence’s Nightingales pitch their HealthPod innovation to the judges in a digital challenge created by the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Imagining a HealthPod located in the community, where patients with chronic illnesses could more easily monitor their symptoms, has won a team of health students the Digital Doctors Disrupt Challenge for 2020, hosted by the University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) in partnership with ChristchurchNZ and Pegasus Health.

Team Florence’s Nightingales (Katie Graves, Vanessa Meehan, Mikayla Dyer, Becky Malone and Gareth Pratt) had just 48 hours from the afternoon of Friday 15 May to the following Sunday evening to solve the problem of health care access. As co-winners, the HealthPod solution earnt the team a share of the $2,500 cash prize pool as well as support from UCE to turn their ideas into reality.

“The HealthPod is a self-enclosed remote monitoring hub located within communities that can be easily accessed by patients, for free, in the places they normally frequent in their everyday life, such as supermarkets, libraries or the Marae,” team member Gareth Pratt says.

“The HealthPod provides GPs with important monitoring data of their patients with chronic diseases, taken at a time and place that suits the patient. This can include vital signs, bloods, spirometry, as well as questions about how they are finding their symptoms. An AI Bot, selected by the patient, talks the patient through the series of questions and measurements that have been pre-determined by the GP.”  

HealthPods could provide timely, convenient and equitable care for patients with chronic illnesses and remove barriers to regular check-ups such as time, location, lack of access to technology and internet and finances. This is empowering for patients and very useful for doctors.

“GPs are provided with up-to-date patient data, enabling them to detect patterns and nuances in disease progression that they might otherwise miss through infrequent face-to-face visits. Therefore, they will have the ability to intervene early, before complications and exacerbations occur - benefiting the patient, general practice and wider health service.” 

Pratt says working on a team project was very welcome after weeks of solitary study under lockdown and he feels optimistic about working in the health sector after he graduates from the joint Bachelor of Nursing (BN)/Masters of Health Sciences Professional Practice (MHSPP) delivered by UC and Ara Institute of Canterbury.

“Our team felt that engaging with leaders from the health sector helped us see that general practices are open and receptive to change and new ideas. This will give us the confidence to push for change to benefit our patients and the health system when we see opportunities for change in our future practice.” 

Dr Isabel Jamieson, who works with UC, Ara and the Canterbury District Health Board, and co-ordinates the conjoint qualification, says the Digital Doctors experience was very beneficial for her students - and potentially for the health sector.

“The UCE Disrupt challenge gave our students the opportunity to apply their learning to a real world problem. By participating in this and working through it together, they learned new skills and increased their confidence. We are always looking for ways to collaborate in the health sector, such as through co-locating UC health research students and Ara nursing students in the Manawa facility. The UCE challenge helped our students to create an innovative and practical solution together –collaboration is something they will need to be able to do to make improvements in their future workplaces.”

UCE with support from ChristchurchNZ and Pegasus Health offered expert mentoring and coaching to the participants, and the final decision was made by a panel of judges. The other winning team were Medsolve with Home Health Hub. VHEEM with Family Health were ‘highly commended’ and the Doctor Digital team were ‘commended’.

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