Monitoring a patient’s core body temperature remotely has long been one of the final frontiers of medicine. But now Swinburne University graduate Doctor Jacqueline Savage is trialling new technology through a startup company that can get patients back into their own homes, and ultimately save lives.
Through her company MedCorp Technologies, the 2016 Telstra Business Women’s Awards Victorian Entrepreneur winner has created wearable technology that can remotely detect these temperature changes to a clinical accuracy of 0.1 degree Celsius.
It will be especially useful in assisting those undergoing chemotherapy, serving as an early-warning tool for the onset of infection and even having the scope to deliver medication remotely.
How the technology works
The wearable tech operates on a simple premise, with recent trials successfully utilising a device worn on the skin and delivering dynamic, round the clock data back to medical professionals.
“We’re very dedicated to improving healthcare through wearable technologies, because that’s where we see the real benefits in the industry are, moving forward,” Dr Savage said.
“We’re looking at chemotherapy patients. Death due to infection is actually the primary cause of death for patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer treatment because their immune systems are so suppressed.
“Being able to send a patient home in between treatments or even while still within the hospital, to be able to really detect those early signs of infection—such as a fever—really has potential to save patients’ lives.”
There are plans to take the technology to further levels as well, with a roadmap in place for extensions that can monitor all vital signs and administer medication remotely.
Why this technology has failed to exist until now
Bizarrely, monitoring core body temperature had not been successfully investigated until Dr Savage started work on the project in 2009.
“It’s currently the only vital sign that isn’t being monitored continuously or non-invasively on the market,” she said.
“That’s where we really saw a strong value proposition for us to enter into that market. We completed our first lot of trials last year and we will probably be looking to launch the product in the next 18 months to 2 years.”
The reason behind this, Dr Savage said, is that too often research remains confined to the walls of institutions and universities. This is why she decided to take a chance and buck the trend by diving in the deep end.
“I think over the years, Australia as a whole, not just Victoria, has maybe lacked that ability to translate that research into a commercial outcome,” she said.
“We haven’t been particularly great at commercialising research. Other places like Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley have absolutely nailed it.
“I think we’ve started to highlight why we haven’t been able to do that and where the support is really needed.”
Victoria driving the new breed of research
Australia-wide, getting funding for non-proven or pre-proven concepts has been an uphill battle for innovative and talented researchers.
But Dr Savage said that Victoria is leading the way in taking a chance on new startups with big ideas like hers.
“In Victoria we’re starting to see a lot more technology come about because we’re starting to get that support in those early stages that we really need,” she said.
“We’re starting to get the universities on board and starting to think ‘how can we teach universities to teach their students how to commercialise their tech’, not just do research for research’s sake.
“I think that’s where Victoria might have the edge in that space, because you are actually tapping into the full capability of the state in terms of the medical research that we do.
“Previously, it’s probably sat in the walls of universities and research institutes and it’s not gone as far as it possibly could have. I think it is heading in the right direction. I think we’ve got some key people in the state that have done it, that is the key.”