Five Aussie entrepreneurs who have developed ideas to make a difference to Australians' health -- including a smartphone app to diagnose skin cancer -- have been announced as finalists in a $40,000 innovation competition.
The five were chosen out of 250 applicants in the third annual Westpac Innovation Challenge, designed as a platform for entrepreneurs to disrupt the healthcare sector.
The team at Victorian startup Aipoly has developed a smartphone app, Aipoly Vision, that can identify objects, labels, people and colours without the internet. When users wave their phone in front of objects it will speak and describe their surroundings in real-time.
"In developed countries the number of people with total incurable blindness is set to double by 2030 due to ageing," said Aipoly Co-founder Alberto Rizzoli. He said the company had plans to expand the technology to include supermarket items, road signs and buttons and screens on ATMs.
OnCallogist is an app to reduce time doctors spend responding to pager alerts and thus increase time for patient care.
Gold Coast University Hospital is an early adopter of OnCallogist and has reported patients are seen 41 percent faster as a result.
"It's not uncommon for doctors to receive over 40 pages a shift -- multiply that by the five minutes it takes to find a telephone and call the nurse back; that's over three hours that could be better spent on patient care," OnCallogist CEO Justin Wong said.
"The current system is a major source of operational inefficiency and information poverty."
NSW startup Surgical Partners has created a financial management platform for medical practices and their doctors that attempts to address the estimated $1 billion lost in productivity due to manual data entry.
Its platform integrates practice management systems with accounting systems and splits doctors' billings into practice share and doctor share.
"We are automating the traditional methods that administrators and external accountants manage the finances of medical practices," Surgical Partners Director Marcus Wilson said.
Sydney startup Brontech has identified flaws and inefficiencies in the way patient's data has been shared, and developed a communications platform called Cyph MD.
"It is still common to see hospital hallways packed with patients filling out forms, medical staff trying to figure out a patient's accurate medical history, doctors using insecure channels like a telephone to acquire data and a patient's consent is still taken for granted," Emma Poposka, Co-founder and CEO, Brontech said.
Tasmanian-based finalist Samuel Holt is CEO of SkinView, a technology that converts a smartphone into a device that can reportedly allow anyone to obtain a diagnosis of skin cancer which can be sent to the cloud for a dermatologist to confirm.
"Two out of every three Australians will develop a skin cancer," he said. "Worldwide, the number is over 1 billion, with an annual treatment cost of over $10 billion in Australia and the USA alone.
"Early diagnosis is critical to increasing survival rates and reducing these costs."
The finalists will pitch to a panel and vie for the main $40,000 prize, but the general public is also being asked to choose a people's choice winner, who will receive $5000.
The finalists have been working with technology startup accelerator BlueChilli ahead of their pitches.
"These entrepreneurs have each taken a unique approach to improving productivity in healthcare and, looking at the range of technologies they are using, it's safe to say there are exciting times ahead for the industry," said Colette Grgic, BlueChilli General Manager of Innovation.
Westpac's Head of Healthcare, Leon Berkovich said the competition showed there was untapped potential in the start-up sector.
"It's fair to say there's no shortage of innovative ideas on how to leverage technology to further improve the healthcare industry," Berkovich said.