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Health Innovations Awards Winners Announced

Health Innovations Awards Winners Announced

Wellington Independent Practitioners' Association retinal screening programme won both the supreme award and the popular choice award at the inaugural New Zealand Health Innovation Awards announced tonight at a ceremony at Te Papa in Wellington.

The new screening programme has screened 4000 people in its first year after being developed by the Wellington Independent Practitioners Association (WIPA) and with the New Zealand Association of Optometrists.

The awards were presented by Health Minister Annette King and ACC Minister Ruth Dyson and sponsored by ACC and the Ministry of Health.

"This is a very special moment in the history of healthcare in New Zealand. We are a nation of health innovators with a proud legacy to follow, names such as Sir Truby King, Nurse Maude and Fred Hollows. Tonight we have done something very special. As a nation, for the first time, we are now finally celebrating innovation in healthcare," Mrs King said.

"Tonight we are identifying, acknowledging, and rewarding health innovation. With these awards we now have a highly visible way of acknowledging and encouraging health innovation and sharing good ideas so they can benefit more New Zealanders," Ms Dyson said.

"These awards represent a partnership between ACC and the Ministry of Health and that is appropriate because we both believe in quality. These awards also reflect the creativity, innovation shown in the health system, doing things in a better way for patients", Ministry of Health Deputy Director-General of Clinical Services Colin Feek said.

"Nearly 200 applications for these awards came from all areas of the health system. I congratulate the finalists for opening themselves up to the auditors in fine detail, for being happy to share the innovations of which they are justifiably proud", ACC's General Manager Healthwise, David Rankin said.

The award winners were:

Supreme award: WIPA retinal screening programme.

Individual award: Winner: Malcolm Battin, Auckland National Women's Hospital and Liggins Institute with the cooling cap to protect infants from brain damage. Highly commended: Meg Butler, High Tech Bodywear for their hip protection garments for older people.

Group award: Winner: WIPA retinal screening programme. Highly commended: Dr Sharad Paul and the Waitemata GP-staffed skin lesion clinic.

Organisation award: Winner: Midcentral DHB hospital at home programme for patients with acute or chronic illness. Highly commended: Hokianga project to improve drinking-water quality.

Popular choice: Winner: WIPA retinal screening programme. Runners-up: Te Rau Pani kaupapa Maori mental health service, New Plymouth and the nurse-led diabetes clinic at Paraparaumu College.

The 25 finalists, health providers and practitioners from around the country, were selected from 190 applicants.

The winner of each category (individual, group and organisation) received a certificate and a cash prize of $8000 and was eligible for the Supreme Award of $15,000. A popular choice award of $5000 was also presented.

Finalists presented their ideas through multimedia seminars and trade fair-style displays as a key aim of the awards was promoting the sharing of innovative products, services and processes.

The innovations are also great examples of how kiwi ingenuity is helping improve the health service and make limited dollars stretch that bit further.

A team of evaluators and panel of judges independent of the Ministry of Health and ACC are assessed the final detailed application forms from the finalists and made site visits to scrutinise the entries.

For more information contact: Peter Abernethy, Communications Manager, Ministry of Health ph: 04-496-2008, 021-366-111 Richard Braddell, Media Advisor, ACC, ph: 021-474-240. Internet:

Profiles of main award winners

Hospital in the Home (Hospital at home for patients with acute or chronic illness)

Virtual hospital wards have been springing up across MidCentral District Health Board's region.

Since March 2000, 450 patients have received specialist-level medical care in the privacy and comfort of their own homes under MidCentral DHB's Hospital in the Home (HITH) project.

The majority of patients have required intravenous antibiotic therapy for some form of infection, or intravenous fluids for complications during pregnancy. In addition, some patients who are extremely susceptible to infection can opt for this type of care, including people who have had chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia.

Overall, the response from patients and health professionals has been resoundingly positive. One patient treated at home summed up the care as "just great, the whole thing is awesome."

The patients are considered external inpatients. They remain under the supervision of a specialist and can be fast-tracked back into hospital if necessary. The DHB's District Nursing Service and a range of allied health care services provide care.

GPs setting their sights on better eye care (WIPA retinal screening programme)

A man already blind in his left eye owes the sight in the right eye to a new free retinal screening set up for diabetics in Greater Wellington and the Wairapapa.

If he had not had the problem detected and immediately treated, doctors believe he could have been totally blind within weeks.

This man is one of 4000 people screened in the first year of the new screening programme developed by the Wellington Independent Practitioners Association (WIPA) with the New Zealand Association of Optometrists. In a New Zealand first, optometrists provide screening in the Wellington, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa District Health Boards' areas.

All people known to have diabetes are referred for screening. An optometrist takes a photograph of the person's eyes and within minutes they can sit at a computer with the optometrist and be shown a photograph of the back of their eye. They can then discuss the condition of their eye and what needs to be done to maintain their sight.

Many people have been referred on to hospital eye clinics for treatment, with others placed on a recall system to ensure they are screened again in time to pick up any deterioration in their retina.

Blindness in people with diabetes can occur suddenly with no warning. Diabetic changes can be well advanced before vision is affected, and treatment is often not an option at this stage. This simple test can prevent irreversible damage and loss of sight.

Cooling cap to protect infants from brain damage

Brain injury through lack of oxygen during birth can cause death or long-term disability. Studies suggest brain damage develops over several days, rather than as a single event.

Auckland's National Women's Hospital and Liggins Institute University of Auckland have together developed a cooling cap, a simple system that may protect the infant brain from evolving injury during the days after birth.

The team performed animal studies and safety studies in newborn infants before undertaking a large multicentre clinical trial.

Before this innovation, care for this group of infants was limited to cardio-respiratory treatment and seizure management. The cooling cap system offers, for the first time, the possibility of long-term improvements. It will benefit children in New Zealand and overseas.

High Tech hip gear protects elderly

Meg Butler's High Tech Bodywear has come up with a protective hip product for the elderly that minimises the impact of falls.

Hip fractures can be devastating for older people with underlying bone weakness caused by osteoporosis. A quarter will die within a year from associated complications.

The High Tech Bodywear hip protector is a thin, ergonomic device that deflects and absorbs impact energy during a fall onto the hip area. Its strength is derived from a combination of thermoplastic composites and it is shaped to fit the curved surface of the body.

The second part of the garment is an adaptive brief with a padded pocket over the hip area that contains the hip protectors. When in place they cannot be seen or felt. The briefs are designed to suit the body shape of older people. They are available in three styles, of which each style is available in seven sizes.

New system speeds up care for people with life-threatening skin lesions (Waitemata GP-staffed skin lesion clinic)

Waitemata Health has slashed waiting times for treatment for potentially life-threatening skin cancers from an average of 290 days in 2000 to less than 42 days with a new service.

Waitemata Health Skin Lesion Service has a new single point of entry and triage at North Shore Hospital for all GP-referred patients. This has dramatically reduced waiting times, with patients quickly dealt with and senior surgeons freed up to concentrate on the cases they must see.

Dr Sharad Paul, a GP/surgeon heads the service, which integrates the surgery and dermatology departments in providing a dedicated skin lesion service. Primary care-based services are also offered to reduce the waiting lists and save bureaucracy costs.

As well, Dr Paul has worked on national guidelines to ensure the quality of the management of skin lesions and educate GPs (via the University of Auckland) to manage skin lesions better. Patients are benefiting from faster treatment times and convenient access to services away from the hospital.

Cleaning up the water (Hokianga project to improve drinking-water quality)

The Hokianga project is providing safe drinking water to 31 marae and two communities in the Hokianga region.

They used to drink polluted water and risk water-bourne disease. Hauora Hokianga is a charitable community trust providing a range of integrated health services to 9100 people in the Hokianga region.

The trust's drinking-water project saw it develop, install and evaluate safe drinking-water supplies for small, generally marae-based, communities in the area. Once completed, the drinking-water treatment plants are operated and maintained by the communities themselves.

"The success of the project is because it is a grass roots response to a community's awareness of a problem. This is where the innovation really is," says Hokianga Health Chief Executive John Wigglesworth.

These communities now have safe water supplies, using the most modern non-chemical water treatment systems available. Communities have developed ownership over their water supplies and have an increased awareness of health issues. The project has also made other communities aware of the benefits of safe drinking water.

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