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$1.485 Million Allocated to Game-Changing Digital Health Solutions

Following a national call for innovative healthcare projects, pilots, and programs, and a tremendous volume of quality applications, five pioneering initiatives will collectively receive $1.485 million in funding. These projects aim to advance digital health solutions and enhance community access to healthcare services across the Hunter New England and Central Coast regions.

The funded projects include a groundbreaking children’s virtual mental health clinic, the introduction of virtual reality (VR) assisted therapy in rural areas, and an autonomous exercise-based clinic and health program. Remote monitoring of dementia patients via clothing with embedded sensor technology and a virtual wound care platform and solution round out the selected projects. These initiatives were selected for their potential to transform Australia's healthcare landscape, addressing challenges posed by an aging population, increasing workforce challenges and evolving healthcare needs.

The 'Game Changer' grants were introduced by the Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN) in response to the increasing demands on healthcare and the need for innovative approaches. Originally committing $1 million, the PHN expanded its funding due to an overwhelming response and the high quality of proposals received.

Richard Nankervis, CEO of HNECC PHN, expressed enthusiasm about the initiative's success: "The response to the Game Changer Technology Grants was overwhelming. Our goal was to attract diverse stakeholders in digital health solutions, and our efforts have brought forth truly transformative ideas."

"These projects will introduce technologies previously unavailable in our communities, such as Goldilocks and Vision Flex. Over the next 12 months, we will implement, test, and evaluate these initiatives, expecting them to serve as proof of concepts for future development across our region. We will be showcasing the results of these pilots so that all interested stakeholders from across the region can benefit from the learning."

“We thank all organisations and individuals who took the time to submit an application. Those who were unsuccessful in this grant round can be assured that we are continuing to assess applications to determine how we explore more of the ideas submitted.”

The Game Changer grants support HNECC PHN's strategic objectives of enhancing equity in access to primary care through virtual services and integrated models of care tailored to priority groups.

Project details

EngageVR - Digital Health Platform: Enhancing Community Access to Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation

The region supported by HNECC PHN faces significant challenges in accessing primary Allied Health services, including long wait times for appointments, limited availability of Allied Health providers and geographical barriers. Virtual reality (VR) offers a unique solution to increasing access and this project will be delivered in both rural and urban areas. By harnessing the power of digital technology, EngageVR aim to overcome these barriers and ensure that all residents have access to timely, high-quality, primary Allied Health services via the Engage VR digital health platform.

EngageVR proposes to introduce the VR telehealth platform as an innovative care model to enhance access to Allied Health rehabilitation for people throughout the HNECC PHN Region. The Platform hosts a library of virtual rehabilitation modules for physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. The interactive modules guide patients through personalised exercises and therapeutic activities, empowering them to manage their conditions and progress towards their rehabilitation goals. The intuitive interface within the VR Headset allows clients to, complete virtual consultations, track usage, performance and progress, and communicate with their healthcare providers seamlessly, enhancing convenience and engagement.

“Engage VR Rehab is very passionate about the accessibility of healthcare service for everyone in Australia and we feel that technology has a large part to play with the ultimate solution. VR Technology is a game changer for healthcare access in Australia and Engage VR Rehab is excited to partner with PHN on this new initiative within Rural and Regional NSW,” said Craig Hewat, Director at Engage VR.

Visionflex - Wound Action Telehealth Community Hubs Project (WATCH Project)

Chronic wounds impact over 430,000 Australians, matching the significance of health issues like dementia and cancer. To combat this, a virtual wound-care solution is being developed for sectors like aged care and First Nations communities. Visionflex will partner with Wounds Australia to introduce a telehealth solution centred around the high-quality GEIS® camera for detailed wound and skin assessments, coupled with a real-time video call system for seamless communication and collaboration between clinicians, patients, and remote wound experts.

This approach not only addresses the current gaps in wound care but also sets a foundation for systemic and lasting change. By adding digital wound assessment and scoring tools, we enhance the capabilities and sustainability of Australia's health sector in preventing and treating chronic wounds, offering a transformative shift in how wound care is delivered and managed nationwide.

Mike Harman, Founder of Visionflex and Head of Product, expressed his enthusiasm about the project, stating, "We are excited to be working with the HNECC PHN team on this project and to be making a real difference in health outcomes for so many patients living with chronic wounds around Australia.”

Goldilocks Suite - Empowering Communities: Enhancing Access to Care for Seniors living with Dementia through Innovative Technology

Goldilocks aims to address workforce shortages and improve access to care for patients living with dementia in rural and remote areas. Goldilocks integrates sensors into clothes to create comfortable and easy-to-use remote monitoring devices. It tracks respiration, mobility (falls, wandering), sleep, skin, and core temperature to enhance safety and quality of life. This monitoring enables early intervention and personalised care, helping to prevent and alert about health issues.

The project will leverage Goldilocks' virtual health assistant to bridge the gap between primary care providers and seniors in rural and remote areas. By enabling remote access to health data and video consultations, the project will improve access to care and reduce the need for seniors to travel long distances for appointments. Overall, the project aims to demonstrate how Goldilocks can be used to overcome workforce shortages, improve access to care, and enhance the quality of care for those living with dementia. GP’s will be integral to the design of referral pathways and workflows within this project.

“This project, in collaboration with Dementia Support Australia, University of Adelaide and Goldilocks, will leverage innovative technology and specialised support to provide continuous, data-driven care and timely interventions for patients living with dementia,” said Shem Richards, Director at Goldilocks.

Three Circles Psychology - Co-designing and piloting an innovative virtual mental health clinic platform to improve telehealth with children and young people

Three Circles Psychology is co-designing and piloting an innovative virtual mental health clinic platform, designed to be engaging, interactive, and tailorable to the unique needs of children and young people (CYP) who require access to support via telehealth. The broader aim is to address the lack of age and developmentally appropriate telehealth platforms for working directly with CYP, which can lead to disengagement from mental health services and limit access to crucial supports, especially for families living in more regional or remote areas.

The project will focus on initial co-design, iterative prototype development, and pilot evaluation with a cohort of clinicians and end-users (i.e. CYP accessing mental health intervention) to assess preliminary outcomes. Findings will highlight opportunities for further development, wider implementation across the HNECC region, expansion to other allied health and health services, and interoperability with existing digital health infrastructure.

"The Gamechanger Technology Grant will significantly accelerate our efforts to create a virtual mental health clinic platform and also validates our mission to develop innovative, technology-based mental health supports for children and young people. We are excited to partner with the PHN and look forward to seeing positive impact from our work in future, " said Jamin Day, Director, Three Circles Psychology.

Rural Fit - Reimagining primary care. An innovative and technology-based autonomous satellite clinic for exercise-based primary care

Rural Fit will deliver an innovative, technology-based solution to increase the equity of primary care, specifically an autonomous satellite clinic for the delivery of exercise-based Allied Health services for Narrabri. Narrabri is a rural local government area within the HNECC PHN with a relatively ageing population, where the overall adult population suffers from chronic conditions that would benefit from exercise-based interventions.

Through a combination of video and sensor-based technology the clinic will bridge the gap between traditional face-to-face and telehealth primary care, supporting increased equity of access, empowerment and improved health outcomes, particularly for those over 50 years of age. Within this solution, initial sessions with a practitioner and initiation to the autonomous satellite clinic will be conducted face-to-face in Narrabri, with all follow-up sessions undertaken in the autonomous satellite clinic and monitored remotely by a practitioner.

The PHN extends its congratulations to all grant recipients and a sincere thank you to all applicants.

For more information:
Rebecca Brennan, Communications and Public Relations Manager 0437 478 138

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