School of Population Health

Mobile Health Apps top Innovation Tank Awards for UNSW academics

Image - Mobile Health Apps top Innovation Tank Awards for UNSW academics

UNSW Medicine academics received nearly $35,000 in funding from the Innovation Tank awarded at the recent Health Beyond Research and Innovation Showcase held in south western Sydney.  The Innovation Tank supports innovative ideas that will benefit the health of people living and working in south western Sydney.   Dr Nicole Caixeiro (Conjoint Lecturer at UNSW and Western Sydney University, Centre for Oncology Education and Research Translation (CONCERT) Biobank Manager, and affiliated with the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research) and Professor Afaf Girgis (Director, Psycho-oncology Research Group, CONCERT, Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, South Western Sydney Clinical School) received over half of the funding available.

Awarded $22,500, Dr Nicole Caixeiro’s project is to develop and implement a mobile app to ensure research participants can provide informed consent.  The mobile app, eIC, will be utilised by scientists to convey their research information and consent when recruiting people to research studies. eIC will be used to convert the paper-based participant information sheets and consent forms currently used into a media platform that is interactive (diagrams, graphics, explanatory videos, audio and visual cues, scrolling and links).  This will allow people to navigate through research information at will, anytime, anywhere, without coercion or undue influence. eIC is a breakthrough innovation which will change and enhance the way research information is conveyed.  Given the population of SWSLHD, eIC will enable information in multiple languages and cater to the needs of people from low socioeconomic status, with mixed literacy levels, and special needs, who generally have poorer health outcomes.   

Nicole is thrilled about the potential global impact of the app, “eIC has the capacity to build globally relevant research as it will provide scientists with a cost-effective, time-saving, and consistent recruitment platform to research, which will ultimately help to reduce barriers to research conduct and speed the translation of research findings for the clinical benefit of patients; improving healthcare in our community, across Australia and on the world stage,” she said. 

Professor Afaf Girgis took home $12,000 in funding to further develop the PROMPT-Care app for mobile phones and tablets.  Use of patient reported outcomes (PROs) improves patient well-being, health outcomes and efficiency of care.   Electronic mechanisms for collecting such data are essential for widespread integration of PROs into routine, everyday clinical practice. However, this presents significant challenges, particularly amongst communities of patients with relatively poor literacy and/or English-language skills.

Afaf and her team developed PROMPT-Care, the first eHealth system for routine collection of PROs and integrated it into hospital oncology information systems. PROMPT-Care data is currently collected monthly from cancer patients via a website, and results are presented as summary reports used by medical staff in real-time during appointments to address issues identified for each patient. To support and empower patients to self-manage, they also email resources to patients specifically targeting their reported outcomes or issues.   In 2017, PROMPT-Care received both the SWSLHD Translational Research Award, and the Board Award for the program most likely to influence patient care. They are now working on implementing PROMPT-Care across SWSLHD.

Afaf has teamed up with Dr Timothy Churches, Research Fellow Health Data Science at UNSW, to further enhance the accessibility of patients to PROMPT-Care by developing an app with the help of the Innovation Tank funding.  “The success of PROMPT-Care notwithstanding, the current system does not reach specific groups including those of non-English speaking backgrounds, who comprise a very significant sector of the Australian patient population, and/or those with insufficient literacy to engage with the online questionnaires. The Innovation Tank funding will allow our team to develop a multi-lingual, voice-enabled app and evaluate it. This innovation will ensure that patients can complete PROMPT-Care assessments to report on their wellbeing in their chosen language, thereby overcoming the language barrier; and using a speech recognition facility, thereby overcoming the low literacy barrier,” she explained.  

The 2018 Health Beyond Research & Innovation Showcase, held in June, offered an opportunity for allied health professionals, nurses, doctors and researchers in south western Sydney present abstracts across the disciplines of health service research, cancer, community health, clinical medicine, biomedical research, mental health and many other areas.

The Showcase promoted environment, health, research and education in south western Sydney and has been a drawcard in developing the vision for the future of Sydney. Presentations included current programs underway at the Ingham Institute and the South Western Sydney Local Health District; together with valued partners, UNSW Sydney and Western Sydney University.

The 2018 theme, “Building better healthcare for the future,” emphasised innovation, technology, automation and importantly providing the necessary infrastructure for a healthy community. The Showcase aimed to draw attention to developing a vision for the national and global future of Healthcare.

Read more about the 2018 Health Beyond Research & Innovation Showcase and Tank Innovation.   Explore the research of Dr Nicole Caixeiro and Professor Afaf Girgis