Multinational electronics firm Philips launched the Philips Fellowship Competition in mid August. The aim of the contest was to find home grown innovations centred around healthcare in South Africa.

The competition entries were closed on 23rd September and this morning at a press briefing in the Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg, the five finalists who will be competing for a prize of R200 000 that will be used to bring the idea to market.

Healthcare is a very broad term so Philips decided to focus on innovations that addressed three core problems they had identified; access to healthcare, access to healthcare resources and healthcare for mothers and children.

Without further ado, let’s meet the finalists who each walk away with R12 000 in prize money.

Dr. Carol Thomas – iMobiMama

A gynaecologist by trade Dr. Thomas wanted to stem preventable occurances that resulted in injury or death to women, and subsequently their unborn children, during pregnancy due to a lack of antenatal care.

Dr. Carol Thomas hopes to improve antenatal care.
Dr. Carol Thomas hopes to improve antenatal care.

Through an IT platform and remote kiosks Dr. Thomas hopes to provide women in remote areas with adequate healthcare. This may very well prevent them from having to travel to bespoke healthcare facilities and incurring the costs associated with this.

Through the platform and kiosk, iMobiMama is an attempt at changing the way in which rural areas access healthcare for expecting mothers.

De Wet Swanepoel – hearScreen

According to research from the World Health Organisation as many as 32 million children suffer from disabling hearing loss. Professor of Audiology at the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, De Wet Swanepoel, believes he has a way to bring this number down.

As Swanepoel explains it, hearing loss is a gradual process but this process can lead to learning problems. These problems can be stunted provided the patient has access to adequate healthcare and hearing testing facilities which are not widely accessible.

Providing healthcare for hearing to school children is De Wet Swanepoel.
Providing healthcare for hearing to school children is De Wet Swanepoel.

Through development and eventual deployment of the hearScreen smartphone app, Swanepoel hopes to make aural healthcare more accessible and help curb hearing loss through early detection. With nothing but the app, a pair of headphones corrected to suit the enviroment and test, hearScreen is able to provide feedback to medical professionals in real time.

By Swanepoel’s account the app is easy to use thanks to automation of tasks and the syncing of data automatically.

The app has been developed to run on a range of Samsung smartphones running Android version 4 and higher. Swanepoel is currently in talks with a major South African mobile network that could see devices being deployed solely for the purpose of testing hearing at a school level.

Ragesh Pillai – Diabetes management platform.

As much as 10% of the South African population has been diagnosed with diabetes. In lieu of this Ragesh Pillai believes that he has a solution to effectively manage the condition by using management software.

Pillai, far left, and his team.
Pillai, far left, and his team.

Those struggling with diabetes will keep a record of their diet, exercise and blood glucose levels among other factors and synchronise this with the centralised database.

Through the software medical professionals are able to remotely monitor a patient and communicate with them should any red flags be raised.

The vision is that Pillai and his three man team will be able to prevent side effects caused by the condition such as kidney failure.

Dr. Sudesh Sivarasu – Mechanical ventilator

Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and asthma, account for as many as 3.1 million deaths according the World Health Organisation and Sudesh Sivarasu believes that this number, in Africa at least, can be lowered with the help of his machine.

Instead of relying on electricity Sivarasu has developed a continous positive airway pressure (CPAP) ventilator that operates mechanically. The portable machine can be powered for up to an hour with a few spins of the crank and can be made for a very low cost.

Looking to help children with asthma through mechanical means is Dr. Sivarasu.
Looking to help children with asthma through mechanical means is Dr. Sivarasu.

The non-invasive machine will hopefully help children between the ages of five and 10 suffering with respiratory problems such as asthma.

Dean Hodgskiss – Remote healthcare equipment maintenance

Having worked with healthcare machines for most of his professional career Dean Hodgskiss knows all too well the pitfalls associated with the maintenance of healthcare equipment. Language barriers, accents and a lack of visual aides all contribute to the fact that 40% of healthcare equipment is underutilised or not maintained.

The solution Hodgskiss has proposed is an app that is able to guide a person through proper maintenance of healthcare equipment in real time through either visual 3D models or text based instructions.

Through this application Hodgskiss hopes to lessen the amount of time critical healthcare equipment is down for and provide on the job training to those who need it. The app has been developed to run on iOS and Android platforms and use very minimal bandwidth.

Dean Hodgskiss wants to increase the efficacy of healthcare equipment maintenance.
Dean Hodgskiss wants to increase the efficacy of healthcare equipment maintenance.

Next week all five finalists will be partnered with a mentor who will assist them in drafting a business plan and pitch that they will then present at the finals in November.

Congratulations to the finalists and we are very glad that we don’t have to make the final decision on who wins and who doesn’t.