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Innovative health projects to get Spark Health funding

Tuesday, 11 February 2020  
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Return to home page editor Rebecca McBeth


Spark Health is looking for projects involving artificial intelligence and machine learning to fund as part of its Digital Innovation Programme 2020.


Working with the National Institute of Health Innovation, it will fund five digital innovation projects ($30,000–$50,000 each) across the New Zealand health sector.


As well as the cash, Spark Health will provide technology advice and recipients will work with Amazon Web Services to leverage its platforms in the AI and machine-learning space.


NIHI will run the process for selecting the five successful projects and provide advice on how to measure health outcomes following implementation.


“Innovation is great, but what we want each project to do is show improvements in health outcomes,” explains Spark Health chief executive Will Reedy.


He says the organisation is supporting innovation because New Zealand is behind in terms of digitisation of its health service, particularly hospitals.


Health providers need to not only upgrade ageing infrastructure and applications, but also do innovation to look at new ways of delivering healthcare.


“We’re open to new ideas and to previous innovation projects that people want to scale up,” Reedy says.


The Digital Innovation Programme is in its second year. In 2019 the theme was the cloud and was supported by Microsoft Azure.


Last year the programme helped virtual care provider iMOKO to scale up nationally from providing services to 8,000 children to 50,000. The iMOKO platform was also integrated with national systems such as the National Health Index and ePrescribing service.


Another finalist, WebTools, used the Microsoft Azure Stack to build a consumer facing health app – called Well –  that pulls patient information from other systems, such as community pharmacies, to present to consumers.


The third finalist was the Patience Project, which allows young people with a long-term illness to use virtual reality headsets to livestream environments, such as classrooms or social engagements, to reduce social isolation during treatment.


Each of the 2020 finalists will be given the opportunity to speak at the HiNZ Innovations in Digital Health Conference 2020 in Wellington in May, where Spark Health is a sponsor and will run the AI and machine learning stream.


Reedy says the programme is not prescriptive about how the money is spent and projects can also apply for money from other funders.


He expects funding to be given out in March with projects kicking off in April–May this year and finish within the calendar year.


Applications close on 28 February.


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story, please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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