MEET THE WIN­NER, EMER­GENCY Q

Idealog - - IDEALOG / THE B:HIVE -

Hav­ing a great idea for busi­ness is one thing, but bring­ing that idea to life? That’s where the hard work be­gins. A few months back, Idea­log joined forces with Smales Farm to host The Race for Space. The com­pe­ti­tion gave en­trepreneurs, start-ups and early stage busi­nesses a chance to bat­tle it out for a year’s free of­fice space at New Zealand's smartest co-work­ing space, the B:HIVE, on Auck­land’s North Shore. Six fi­nal­ists, seven judges, some care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion and count­less blue­berry muffins later, a de­ci­sion was made. And out of the im­pres­sive ar­ray of fi­nal­ists – from AI chat­bots to hemp tam­pons – it was Emer­gency Q, a health­care ap­pli­ca­tion, that came out on top as the win­ner, while Feed My Furbaby was run­ner up. Sarah

Pol­lok chats with the win­ners. Noth­ing is worse than the painfully long wait in an over­crowded emer­gency room. Ex­cept, per­haps, be­ing told you could have skipped the six-hour wait and just gone to your GP.

Con­gested hospi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments aren’t just frus­trat­ing for pa­tients but ex­pen­sive and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous for the hos­pi­tals them­selves. How­ever, a new soft­ware is em­pow­er­ing pa­tients and mak­ing waves in the med­i­cal world. And, as a re­sult, it has walked away with first place at the B:HIVE’s Race For Space start-up com­pe­ti­tion.

Emer­gency Q is a new soft­ware and plat­form that con­nects Kiwi pa­tients with health­care fa­cil­i­ties and prac­ti­tion­ers, in­form­ing them not only where is best to seek treat­ment, but how long it will take and how much it will cost.

Health­care AP Lim­ited’s CEO, Mor­ris Pita, said the in­spi­ra­tion for the con­cept came in the form of a pizza. While or­der­ing take­out with his kids one week­end, Pita was im­pressed with how an app en­abled him to or­der, pay and track when the food was be­ing cooked and ready to col­lect. The soft­ware pro­vided an ex­pe­ri­ence that was clear, con­cise and user-fo­cused, which was a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence from when Pita took his son to the hospi­tal emer­gency depart­ment the fol­low­ing week.

“When we got there, it was the ex­act op­po­site to the pizza ex­pe­ri­ence. No one told us if we were in the right place, or how long it would take to be treated, or what it would cost. With that ba­sic in­for­ma­tion, we would have known we could have just gone to an ur­gent care clinic, in­stead of spend­ing seven hours in the hospi­tal,” Pita says.

Pita knew he wasn’t alone in this and says a large num­ber of peo­ple are turn­ing up to Hospi­tal Emer­gency De­part­ments with mi­nor med­i­cal is­sues when it’s more ap­pro­pri­ate for them to be seen by a lo­cal GP or an ur­gent care clinic.

In­spired by the ease and sim­plic­ity of the pizza app, Pita and his team be­gan de­vel­op­ing a soft­ware that would em­power pa­tients with easy to un­der­stand, log­i­cal and live data to help them make in­formed health­care de­ci­sions. Through the Emer­gency Q app, users can find out what con­sti­tutes a med­i­cal emer­gency, check how long they will be wait­ing and the ap­prox­i­mate cost of the visit from the touch of a but­ton.

The whole op­er­a­tion has been en­tirely boot­strapped to date. Since launch­ing its pi­lot last May at North Shore Hospi­tal, the soft­ware has been met with great suc­cess, re­duc­ing their Emer­gency Depart­ment vol­umes by 12 per­cent and sav­ing 7,500 pa­tients from a to­tal of 30,000 hours of un­nec­es­sary wait­ing. For con­text, that equals about three-and-a-half years of wait­ing.

With re­sults like this, it’s no sur­prise that the soft­ware caught the at­ten­tion of Mid­dle­more Hospi­tal, which will be de­ploy­ing Emer­gency Q soon. Pita says the com­pany will also be look­ing to raise in­vest­ment at some point, but it is cur­rently tran­si­tion­ing from pi­lot mode to com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion mode. The com­pany earns rev­enue through charg­ing fees to health­care providers, but Pita says they save money as a re­sult of the prod­uct.

“In the case of hos­pi­tals, they save money through re­duced pa­tient vol­umes, and vice versa for pri­mary care clin­ics who treat ad­di­tional pa­tients as a re­sult of us­ing our soft­ware. It is free to pa­tients,” he says.

And while there are thou­sands of health-re­lated apps on the mar­ket, he says Emer­gency Q’s dif­fer­ence is its foun­da­tion as a soft­ware sys­tem.

“The big dif­fer­ence be­tween us and every­thing else out there is we’re not an app, it’s just part of the over­all sys­tem,” Pita says.

This “part of the over­all sys­tem” ended up im­press­ing the judges of the Race for Space com­pe­ti­tion and win­ning first place. Pita said the team were ab­so­lutely thrilled about the win.

“We’re hugely ap­pre­cia­tive. It gives us a real op­por­tu­nity to re­di­rect re­sources that would have gone into fund­ing of­fice spa­ces into our prod­uct.”

He said the prize (six desks for 12 months at the B:HIVE’s co-work­ing space) would give them the chance to take their vi­sion past the $48 fold-out ta­ble they cur­rently use in the of­fice and ex­pand their reach as a com­pany. Look­ing ahead, Pita said Emer­gency Q wanted to keep rolling out the soft­ware sys­tem in other hos­pi­tals and clin­ics, while also hint­ing at the prospect of over­seas op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We’re be­gin­ning the process of look­ing at how our so­lu­tions can sup­port pa­tients in hos­pi­tals in lo­ca­tions out­side New Zealand.”

It’s been a good few months for the Emer­gency Q team, which also re­ceived the Most In­no­va­tive High Tech So­lu­tion for Pub­lic Good award at this year’s NZ Hi-Tech Awards, an achieve­ment they saw as yet an­other tick of val­i­da­tion for their idea.

As for any wise ad­vice Mor­ris wishes he could have given him­self all those months back, the founder said it was all about re­silience. “No is nor­mal. As a start-up, you get told no prob­a­bly four to five times more than you get told yes. Take heart, have faith in what you stand for and the prob­lems you want to solve and don’t give in. Don’t get dis­cour­aged, get more creative.”

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