July 26, 2019

10-week Innovation Challenge: digital technology for diabetics

Northern Health is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Swinburne University in a 10-week Innovation Challenge to answer the question “How might we better support life-long self care of early stage Diabetes Type 2 patients who have been diagnosed within their first 6 months to 2 years.”

Kim Anderson, the AWS Digital Innovation Lead for Cloud Innovation Centers, says “The Swinburne Data for Social Good Cloud Innovation Centre is the first Center of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere addressing some of Australia’s biggest social challenges by growing our future-ready leaders, whilst also supporting industry partners with accelerating innovation.”

“It connects Swinburne’s Research Institute and innovation capabilities, and is an approach to solve real-world global challenges, such as Diabetes Type 2 and drive meaningful health and well-being outcomes for Northern Health’s patients,” says Kim.

Kim Anderson at extreme right, brainstorming with the team at the Innovation Challenge

Diabetes affected an estimated 1.2 million (6%) of Australian adults aged 18 years in 2014-15. The consequences of poor self- management are potentially devastating for an individual with diabetes, but the pressure on the health care system is equally alarming and unsustainable. For example, 40% of Australia’s health budget, ($55 billion) of costs are for chronic conditions.

Dr Suresh Vardarajan, Endocrinologist at Northern Health says there is an urgent need to develop technological solutions to support and coach people with diabetes in self-management and monitor their medication adherence.He explained that as self-management is a behavioural change, the workshops will focus less on the clinical and more on how behavioural change can impact in a positive way.
A series of workshops that started Monday 8 July, will run at Northern facilitated by AWS to clarify the extent of the problem and define the solution set from which an appropriate digital solution can then be designed.

Integral to the success of the workshops was the input from patients and clinical users. Two patients: one newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes & one long-term stable diabetic were interviewed.


A patient being interviewed as part of the Innovation Challenge in Week 1

The clinical users consisted of endocrinologists, diabetic educators and diabetic nurses. Professor Nilmini Wickramasinghe Professor of Digital Health at Swinburne University, says:

“By engaging with clinicians and patients and collaborating with a hospital partner, not only do we try to engage all key healthcare stakeholders we also try to develop a solution that works for everyone involved which is a great way to develop effective solutions in digital health.”

“Given the rapid developments in advanced technology solutions such as Internet of Things, machine learning, data analytic and gaming, we have an opportunity to develop tailored solutions, grounded in state-of-the-art behaviour change principles, to support people with diabetes,” says Dr Michael Kirk, Director, Medical Services at Northern Health.