Introducing the team

The Melbourne Health Accelerator Program (MHx) is a unique experiment; a health start-up accelerator situated inside a busy teaching hospital.

The management team of this program come from Melbourne Health and Health Round Table. They all have extensive experience in health services and are committed to transforming healthcare from within.

On the Melbourne Health side Chris Kommatas is the MHx Program Director, a dynamic and entrepreneurial leader. Chris is also founder and organiser of StartUp HealthTech Australia, and Chief Executive Officer of Amplify Health Ventures.

Patricio Sepulveda is the MHx Business Development Director. He has global experience that includes Strategy, Business Development, Research and Development and Licensing work for international companies. Patricio is currently Directory of Business Development at Melbourne Health.

On the Health Round Table side, Duane Attree is an Executive Director of HRT and CEO of Chappell Dean. Duane has a wealth of executive experience that includes community health services.

Jenni Dore is the Programs Manager at MHx. She has a wide range of experience in the Health Insurance Sectors and is a Director of Agnes Health.

How the program is structured

The MHx management team have created an accelerator program that brings course participants directly into contact with clinical staff, facilitates introductions to relevant hospital stakeholders and exposes health start-ups to expertise from relevant areas.

There is a ‘pitch lab’ every fortnight where startups pitch to both Melbourne Health, Health Round and fellow participants, receiving constructive feedback to improve their skills. They also receive face to face mentoring sessions, complete self-evaluations and provide updates to a personalised business canvas every fortnight.

Course participants have started attending the hospital Grand Rounds in the main lecture theatre of the Royal Melbourne Hospital. This is a rare opportunity to listen as hospital staff present on various topics, including patient diagnosis and treatments, current trends in medical management and hospital policies.

Quality mentoring and expert advice are critical for start-ups and MHx facilitates information sessions that range from legal advice on business structures and intellectual property, to clinical practice and academic research.

Guest speakers from health reform experts such as Tim Blake from Sematic Consulting discuss topics like, the rise of patient power, why transforming healthcare is a long term project, constraints that are specific to the health industry that entrepreneurs may not be aware of, the danger of information silos and future trends in health care.

By the end of week two the start-ups can be categorised as fitting three main groups, based on who their potential customers are; clinical staff, hospital administrators and patients/carers.

This week two we present the start-ups whose main customers are Clinical staff, initially Doctors but will eventually become all AHPRA professionals.

Doctors will need modern tools if they are going to practice medicine in the 21st Century. Medical practice is getting busier, billing systems are fragmented and opaque, government regulation is constantly increasing and an ageing population brings challenges of chronic diseases, that require constant monitoring.

Current research shows that stress levels among Doctors is rising. Many are leaving clinical practice as a result.

Praxhub, Phytogp and Semacare are three start-ups that focus on solving these problems, using modern technology combined with a user-friendly interface.

Here is a synopsis of their first pitches

Barry Nguyen

Barry Nguyen is the co-founder and CEO of Phyto. His team has been working on their concept for over two years and decided to incorporate a company last year.

“The vision that we have among the three of us, which we are passionate about, is to improve the flow of communication between Doctors and Patients” says Barry.

In today’s healthcare the problems are tight time constraints, high operating costs and people presenting with multiple chronic conditions.

There is also increasing medico-legal risk.

“Our solution engages the patient pre-consultation to ensure a more accurate capture of data, then follows up post consultation, to monitor patients progress”
Barry Nguyen.

Robert Beveridge and Steve Snow believe that Praxhub is social and professional networking for Doctors.

Their company mission is to make professional networking and continuing education easier for health professionals.

The Praxhub platform is free to join, and members must be a clinician which Praxhub will verify with AHPRA. Once Doctors have created a profile, they are able to add their specialty, interests and location. Praxhub has a follower model, so Doctors can follow others that share their interests, helping busy professionals to network, and stay up to date with information.

There is a growing library of Continuing Professional Development accredited videos, that are easy to find, watch and complete an evaluation form. Praxhub automatically sends the points off to the Royal Australian College of Medical Practitioners.

“Our vision is to connect healthcare professionals via a platform that allows professional networking, education and support.” says Steve Snow.

The platform also hosts content that Doctors have created themselves, in order to provide practical education for other Doctors.

“So what is happening within Praxhub and within the group, is information sharing and collaboration. This is unlocking knowledge, breaking down information silos and helping support junior Doctors as they go through their training”.
Steve Snow.

Shanthakumar Bannirchevlvam is the finance director of Semacare, a medical device distribution service, with an innovation arm, where they develop products like Remon, a hand held diagnostic and communication device. The Remon device meets international government regulations, it is FDA, TGA and CE approved.

The device takes an ECG, pulse and oxygen levels. It is internet enabled, syncs the data to the Semacare cloud service and allows phone and video conferencing.

The device has been validated in several clinical settings. It is being used with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, where Semacare collaborated in a community screening program looking at 400 ‘at risk’ people. A number of people with a sub-clinical atrial fibrillation were subsequently identified and treated.

The company is also working with research in St Vincent’s. The Royal Adelaide Hospital, have Australia’s largest cardiac arrhythmia clinic, is considering using the device.

Semacare has a global outlook and is is looking at helping less advantaged countries like the Sub Sahara, Africa and India. It doesn’t just focus on Western economies.

Semacare is engaged with the MHx accelerator program to see how they can service the needs of Melbourne Health. They are looking to showcase their technology to Doctors, and find out how they can best support them to do their work.

“What is the future market? We see a big rise in wearable devices, and people increasingly wanting to personalise medical diagnostics. What Semacare has is a hardware solution, the company is looking at an internet-based hub that pulls information from devices and pushes it out to individuals and health professionals.”
Shanthakumar Bannirchevlvam.

Background on the program inception

The opportunity to launch the first hospital-based accelerator was initially pitched to local government several years ago, and received with a chorus of scepticism and doubt. At that time there was no appetite for facing the perceived risks, and limited understanding of the benefits the program could bring.

In mid 2016, a casual meeting with the a recently appointed Director of Business Development Patricio Sepulevda, led to the prompt establishment of a pilot accelerator program, that became the Melbourne Health Accelerator Program.

Collaboration with a deep technology start-up incubator and a mix of Australian research groups was struck, to provide a start-up program curriculum and give insights into how health-care research could translate into solid commercial success.

The pilot program mission was to provide startups with access to Doctors, support robust clinical validation and speed time to market for HealthTech companies. The pilot program was so successful that a grant application to the Public Sector Innovation Fund at the Department of Premier and Cabinet was subsequently approved.

The progress of the Melbourne Health Accelerator Program is being closely watched by Government, hospital administrators, private health networks and health reform advocates.

The health industry must reform. Costs are rising continuously but are not being matched by clinical outcomes.

Much of the health budget is being consumed by procedures that are wasteful, unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

If the 2017 program produces more successful outcomes, the MHx may be used as a reference site for other hospitals in Victoria seeking to drive a culture of innovation.

Health reform could finally be coming to Australia, from an underutilized 2nd floor ward that once housed a busy Intensive Care Unit.

Among the jungle of disconnected oxygen and suction outlets, power outlets and stands that were meant for ventilators and cardiac monitors, are startup founders, hunched over their desks.

Entrepreneurs are designing solutions for problems that today seem insolvable. Their tools are big data, an appetite for hard work and an invincible belief in reform.

All around them are the memories of people who fell ill, struggled and in some cases died.

Florence Nightingale and her companions in the Sanitation Movement would approve.

© Wikihospitals June 2017