Fashion and Sustainability: How Can Medical Workers Get Involved?

Next week, I’m excited to attend LEGACY Summit, presented by Ndless: The New Normal and Fashion Revolution.

LEGACY Summit is a Responsible Fashion Summit. It will have huge talks and workshops on sustainability; ethical work practices; the health issues of the textiles and fibres we wear and consume; and the impact of fashion on our planet. Whether you’re a startup, a consultant for McKinsey (who’ll be there too!), a student, or a curious industry outsider wanting to learn more, it’ll be fantastic to attend and meet great friends sharing the same interests.

It’s incredible (and btw, heads-up for my new project below!), and I can’t wait because it’s something I don’t really get to talk about with other doctors except as a consumer.

Living in Cairns last year, everyone was very conscious of sustainable living and recycling practices. The Great Barrier Reef is on our doorstep, and Banana, Sugar Cane farmers and Daintree rainforest residents and visitors coupled with the proximity to cyclones and the isolation of rural living meant that locals were very conscious of how we could save the planet, one small step at a time.

That includes being one of the first cities in the world to promote paper straws at their bars. Kids running projects like Straw No More on Instagram have done huge things to promote international awareness. Locals were alarmed that international tourists would be served canned drinks on board the Reef ferries; and then find that plastic straws included with the cans were often dumped into our beautiful ocean!!

Coral bleaching from global warming was also a frequent topic in the Cairns Post, and even the changing lifestyle habits of crocodiles were discussed in the media as a potential consequence of global warming. (Hint: the risk is higher in the summer, or wet season in the Far North. But really, just don’t swim in the waters up there, and beware the yellow signs warning of crocs!)

Anyway, as healthcare workers, and as a doctor, I frequently find that I’m having to explain myself when I tell even close friends that I like fashion.

Yes, I love getting dressed up, I love understanding my style choices, and I LOVE understanding the impact of textiles on my own body when dressing for humidity vs frigid temps (and that’s been a frequent consideration when flying between Cairns and Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania in winter!).

But I also love global health, and the fact that the whole world, from Hong Kong Tatler to Calvin Harris to our supermarkets, is talking about sustainability. (Medical Pantry is also inspired by this!)

I think it’s silly and ignorant to dismiss fashion as frivolous. We could spend all day talking about the body shaming issues that have led many to believe this. But as the planet’s largest industry, as clinicians and healthcare workers (and social enterprise startups!), it would be amiss of us to not acknowledge fashion as an important topic that can be worked on by doctors, nurses, physios, dietitians (plant-based fibres, anyone?), podiatrists (think of the great sole materials that can be made from fabric offcuts! Think of Allbirds shoes and other cool startups!), and others in medicine and healthcare.

At any rate, our patients care. It would be wrong to not acknowledge that.

Tickets are still available for Legacy Summit. Other ways you can get involved in the conversation:

1) Attend talks like those at VAMFF (on this week!) and other local fashion festivals

2) Participate in Fashion Revolution

3) Form a blog. Yep, I’m putting together a new blog and podcast, Incredible Wearable, that will explore the intersection between fashion tech, sustainability and health. You can start by following @incrediblewearable on Instagram.

4) Advocate with your College if you’re a member. The RACP has a portal for Climate Change resources for Doctors, including links to The Lancet studies.

5) Open your mind and heart to the possibilities when you don’t silo industries and topics into separate categories. Garment workers in developing nations working in factories with poor ethical practices suffer the health consequences of these practices. Healthy eating for the planet is also an important topic that’s related. EAT Foundation is a recommended resource to get involved with.

6) Global Ideas and other global health events and forums, and webinars, and ecourses, and MOOCs (see our Resources page!) are all great ways to get involved and learn. Once we grow together, we’ll have stronger voices to advocate for all this.

What are your thoughts? How are you involved in sustainable fashion?

Is #BalanceForBetter? International Women's Day 2019

This International Women's Day, and for all the days after it:

- I pledge to be kind to myself, because I know I haven't been; 

- I pledge that I will look after my health and wellbeing as well as I look after others'

- I will cheerfully accept that as women AND men we can't "have it all" or "do it all" at once, and enjoy knowing there's a season for everything

- I will take more walks, see more trees, swim more seas, and relax with Mother Nature

- I won't worry about the future; it hasn't happened; the past was a kind teacher, but the present is where we need to be

- I relish the journey, and enjoy each minute, being patient for the destination;

- I see "balance" as a continuum, as not equal halves or thirds or quarters in life, but more as a "flow" and that relieves pressure for women everywhere; 

- I am content and happy, and hope that you all are, too.

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

#BalanceForBetter  #IWD2019

Deceleration as a Tool for Identity and Preventing Burnout

I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (his podcast), Episode #295, where he goes into “The 4-Hour Work Week Revisited.” If you’ve read any of his books, or even if you’ve just heard of “The 4-Hour Work Week,” I highly recommend listening to it. He has some thoughtful insights from the unprecedented response to his most famous book on working well, productivity and “lifestyle design”, and answers some of the most commonly asked questions he’s received since first publishing it over ten years ago.

Approximately midway through the episode, Tim discusses what he believes is the most important and overlooked chapter, “Filling the Void.” In a nutshell, the chapter is about what the reader could do after finding their success on their terms; automation, fantastic cashflow, a great team, flexibility, low stress; as detailed in the book. However, Tim has found that people too often mistake the chapter as being a treatise on the benefits of lifelong idleness after achieving “success” in this manner. Furthermore, he believes people who misread this chapter may misunderstand how to relax well.

“It’s about contribution; getting yourself out of a ‘me, me, me!’ focus, so that you’re hopefully putting a positive dent in the world, in a way that extends outside of yourself and your immediate family, and hopefully has some persistence over time,” says Tim. “And taking the tools you’ve developed in a business capacity, and applying them to impact in some fashion. I expect many people skipped (the chapter) because they don’t expect to succeed…. But (perhaps) what started out as a party or a celebration ends up being really lonely, they feel isolated and don’t know how to address that…. and by thinking about filling the void, about starting to incorporate those pieces into your life, BEFORE you end up in a challenging psychological position where you end up being reactive, … since you haven’t filled the void with anything non-business related, you’re going to continue to work for work’s sake. This is really common for people who succeed in any capacity. .. It’s really rare you see someone who’s been in sixth gear for a very long time, who then retires and is really good at chilling out. Learning to relax and enjoy other aspects of life, and engage with people around you- friends, community or built community- those are skills you need to practice and develop, just as you need to develop and practice the skill of split testing (ie. A-B testing) to anything else. It’s not a default ability you have as soon as you stop.

“They can be really existential (issues) for someone. If the business has been your identity for a long time, and all of a sudden you want to replace that, if you don’t have a compelling replacement, you’ll just continue working because you don’t want to have to sacrifice that identity.”

(If you don’t have a business, feel free to replace it with “work” in the quotes above to apply to your situation.)

I think this is why people have trouble taking a break; even if you haven’t felt that you’ve reached your ideal of “success” yet; even if you’ve failed or had a hard time and wanted to distance yourself from your work for a time; in order to recuperate. If your identity’s so wrapped up in your work (and don’t worry, you’re not odd- it’s very common in medicine and startup land), you’ll feel that strange sense of time stretching out, empty and unfilled, and you’ll perhaps feel guilty for having that free time, and try to keep “busy” by filling it up with quick dopamine rushes, which may be simply starting a bunch of new projects with too much zest (who doesn’t love enthusiasm?), or at their extreme, can include overspending, binge eating, even drugs and so forth.

Or maybe you don’t experience any of that, but you think that to fill that void, you have to go back to work ASAP. And if that work environment was toxic for you, or you had issues to work through that you didn’t get addressed while having time off, those issues can quickly reappear, or be amplified, creating an even worse situation for yourself.

And the worst is that you may feel you’ve trapped yourself.

But there’s always a good way out.

You can be proactive about this.

As Tim suggests, no matter where you’re at in life, you can start today by asking yourself if you’re enjoying enough time with your friends/loved ones; if you’re doing something meaningful to you that is part of your identity, like a hobby that isn’t directly related to your work; or you can start something new, a new activity or hobby that helps build your identity beyond your medical life or startup life. You need to know that you’re valued beyond the workplace. And if you do find that you want to go back to work, that’s okay, but you could consider an option of trying a different work environment; working fewer hours/part time; or changing your work style in some other way. (A burnt-out, bullied doctor shouldn’t necessarily jump straight back into the exact same workplace; locuming a couple of days in a different workplace, or volunteering your compassion, integrity and other qualities into a tutoring job for homeless children, let’s say, could help you recuperate and feel fulfilled beyond your initial job description.)

It takes time to decelerate; even a car doesn’t do it gracefully when the brakes are slammed on! Patience with yourself will go far.

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

The Tech Revolution in Regional Australia, and Opportunities for Future Growth

Here’s an article I wrote in March 2017 for StartupsInnovation.com. You will notice this was pre-2018 Australian leadership spill! I have a real love for Queensland, and regional Australia’s potential to be world leaders in innovation and creativity. This article has heaps of resources and events to be aware of if you’re keen to get started with your big idea in Queensland, whether in the big city or further out. Share your thoughts below.

There's a tech revolution Down Under- and we have ideas on where the next opportunities will be.

As a frequent city-hopper throughout Australia, we've noticed that the tech revolution isn't solely limited to our most famous capital cities. 

Brisbane skyline at night. Louise Teo

Brisbane skyline at night. Louise Teo

The rural towns dotting the 2300km expanse of the Great Barrier Reef have long been subject to “boom or bust” economic conditions in Australia. With the recent Australian mining sector downturn affecting once-bustling cities throughout Central and Northern Queensland, the time is ripe for entrepreneurialism to take place.

The Australian Federal Government's Innovation Agenda has helped foster an environment for numerous innovation events. One such event coming up is Myriad, the global entrepreneurs’ conference to be held in Brisbane, Queensland’s capital, at the end of March. Bringing speakers from TechCrunch, Estonia, Western Europe and rural Queensland to the city, the event promises to help connect and inspire attendees as Australia’s answer to SXSW. 

Myriad’s timing coincides with the World Science Festival, which will host Hack The Reef, the world’s first hackathon dedicated to the Great Barrier Reef. Held in Townsville, one of Northern Queensland’s largest Reef gateposts, Hack the Reef will bring participants together to brainstorm solutions for the Reef’s rapid bleaching crisis, with global warming sending water temperatures 1-2 degrees Celsius higher than usual and irreversibly bleaching the beautiful coral. Hack the Reef will send winners to Myriad, and help boost tech and entrepreneurial skills in a region not known for its Opera House or laneway coffee spots. 

Great Barrier Reef from above! Louise Teo

Great Barrier Reef from above! Louise Teo

Maker spaces and coworking centres have also opened up in Mackay, Cairns and Townsville. Startup Mackay is a hub for the sugar cane city and former mining hub now focusing on tourism. The Assisted Devices Hackathon will be held in Mackay, Toowoomba and Townsville later this year, with support from Advanced Manufacturing Queensland helping to re-energise Queensland manufacturing and engineering. theSPACE Cairns and Canvas Coworking in Toowoomba also host startup events and coworking space for locals and visitors. 

Additionally, Australia’s largest corporate startup accelerator Slingshot has announced a presence in Cairns this year. It will dedicate funding and resources to projects focusing on travel, hospitality and entertainment in this city of 160,000 people which hosts international guests such as Elton John. Slingshot is known for running one of Australia’s largest health-tech accelerators, and currently has Australia’s first Human Resources Tech accelerator open for applications to be the next Freelancer or similar. 

Finally, small business groups in these towns continue to host events for local startups and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) alike. Small Biz Big Future has been held in Cairns for several years’ running, bringing together web developers, agricultural, marketing and legal experts in the region to deliver Top 3 Business Tips for attendees. 

Advance Queensland also completed a regional tour featuring 6 of Queensland's most successful entrepreneurs, including Shark Tank Australia's Steve Baxter and We Are Hunted's Stephen Phillips, visiting ten rural cities to share their experiences with locals. 

How else can regional towns pivot from existing business models and upskill in entrepreneurship? Currently, the options for rural business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs are to attend local events or education providers; otherwise, if they can afford it, to relocate to one of the capital cities. In our opinion, education shouldn't be limited to local TAFE centres and universities, which are often costly and not suitable for time-poor owner-operators. It's also worthwhile remembering that many small business owners are successful despite not completing school, or not having a strong tech culture within an Indigenous Australian community. Private tech skill educators such as General Assembly and Academy Xi are based in major capitals such as Melbourne and Sydney (with GA opening in Brisbane). These cities are doing their bit for entrepreneurship, but are becoming saturated with choice of events. Surely such schools could also aim to broaden their reach to rural areas by offering free or paid video access to classes and talks. 

In times of crisis, there is a long-held resilience demonstrated by local farmers, retailers, and other small business owners, with communities devoted to buying local. Much can be learnt from business owners who have dealt with cyclones, droughts, banana plantation destruction and international trade adjustments. Perhaps a platform needs to be developed for giving these stalwart regional business owners a chance to share their lessons virtually with young and tech-savvy entrepreneurs across Australian cities. This could help introduce a new revenue stream to such business owners, in a valuable collaborative effort of Ideas Exchange. 

Australia's current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a former tech entrepreneur himself, has tried to shine a light upon regional innovation. Taking in rural Queensland towns such as Bundaberg and Rockhampton last year, Prime Minister Turnbull was impressed with technologies such as drones used by farmers for crop surveillance and pest control. As mentioned during his visit, it's important to remember that entrepreneurs are not just city-based friends in T-shirts coding in a garage for fun. The real need for tech and entrepreneurial skills comes from those who are geographically isolated and time- and resource-poor. 

Ongoing support for local businesses and education providers, whether rural or metropolitan, will continue to drive the future of Australian innovation. We'd be glad to hear your thoughts on this article and other ideas you may have.  

World First: 3D-Printed Tibia Successfully Inserted Into Man’s Leg During Surgery

First published September 10, 2017

A team of Australian surgeons have successfully implanted a 3D-printed tibia into a 27-year-old man’s leg.

 

 

Photo courtesy of The Age.

 

The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, collaborated with the Queensland University of Technology with the design of the original polymer and “scaffold,” and with the printing technology in Singapore.*

The young father had suffered a life-threatening osteomyelitis, and faced above-knee amputation as the alternative.

It’s going to be fascinating following the journey of this man’s recovery, and hearing more and more stories of others successfully receiving 3D-printed bone and tissue. Both metropolitan and regional locations will soon be able to have these resources on hand (a 3D-printed tibia is pictured from Mackay Base Hospital’s 3D-printer here).

For more information, head to The Age and the ABC News.

*We’d love to credit the site in Singapore where the printing for this surgery took place!

Melbourne Social Enterprise Pioneers Model: Giving Through Medical Education

First published July 26, 2017

There are many ways to give through your business or startup.

Who knew that by educating yourself for your fellowship exams, you are also helping by giving to those less fortunate? 

PhysEd gives you this sense of purpose.

                

Two Melbourne medical doctors decided to give through their medical education company, PhysEd, a two-week intensive preparation course for doctors preparing for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians’ Basic Physician Training Written Exam.

         

Inspired by ethicist Peter Singer’s book and organisation, The Life You Can Save, PhysEd gives 5% of revenue to charity, donating over five figures in its first year. The specialty exams are a gruelling time in any doctor’s life, and attending a course has statistically shown to improve your chance of passing. Having gone through the exams themselves, the founders know the high standards expected of course speakers and exam candidates. With this in mind, PhysEd incorporates a practical, immersive approach to multiple-choice question preparation, including a weekend MCQ intensive midway through the course, and high-quality, experienced presenters from many of Melbourne’s top teaching hospitals.

Let’s face it- going through the exams is a very competitive, self-focused time, spanning over two years of doctors’ lives, which can take away from the meaning of medicine- to give to others who need your knowledge. Medicine is about giving, yet, the competitive environment of training and striving to be your best on that one exam day can sap away one’s energy and original sense of purpose for medicine. PhysEd’s giving model helps you feel that you’re not alone- your studying is not in vain, just for your own score and knowledge – it’s helping others, including companies such as Medicins Sans Frontieres and Against Malaria.

To find out more and register, including a free, fully-equipped doctors’ briefcase for the Part 2 exams with full registration(!), head to physed.com.au

For an inspiring book from a pioneering social entrepreneur, read our review of TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie’s book here

Photo credits: physed.com.au

Book Review: “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, TOMS Founder

First published July 20, 2017

This book is a must-read.

 

Pic: themedicalstartup.com

Most of you would have heard of TOMS. Many of you perhaps own a pair or two. There’s a fascinating story behind it.

 

Blake Mycoskie is known for pioneering the One-for-One retail model, where a company gives something for every item that’s sold. In TOMS’ case, that’s a pair of shoes to a community in need for every pair of TOMS sold around the world.

Blake was inspired after taking a brief sabbatical from his former startup (and after “The Amazing Race” in America). As many startup founders (and healthcare workers!) discover, it’s hard to switch off. Early into his trip to Argentina, he was struck by the number of children walking barefoot on the hot roads, because their families couldn’t afford to purchase shoes. Blake goes into detail about his early days finding a local shoemaker in Argentina; working out the supply chain without having fashion experience; hiring his first interns; and how they spread the word about TOMS. Since then, TOMS has grown into a multimillion-dollar company, and Blake has created a venture fund for social entrepreneurs to help others create good from their companies.

Other companies such as Warby Parker for eyeglasses have found success with a for-profit model of giving. Many people believe that non-profits are more subject to instability, being reliant upon donations and philanthropy. It could be argued that social enterprise is a more sustainable business model long-term, where a social enterprise is defined as a for-profit business that serves to do good as its core mission.

With “Start Something That Matters,” Blake shares his thoughts from TOMS’ journey, and gives actionable tips on how you can do the same. A very inspiring and uplifting read, including case studies from other companies.

What other books have inspired you? Share your best recommendations below. 

New Zealand Clinicians’ Challenge Open For Entries

First published June 13, 2017

 

If you’re a clinician in New Zealand with a great idea, the Clinicians’ Challenge may be right for you.

 

Attendees mingling at HiNZ 2016. Pic: The Medical Startup

The Clinicians’ Challenge aims to help healthcare workers from all disciplines improve the lives of patients through innovative projects. There are two categories: New Idea, or Active Project/Development. Prizewinners will share in $20,000NZD worth of funding, supported by HiNZ and the Ministry of Health, New Zealand.

Last year’s winners who presented at HiNZ include:

  • anaesthetics registrar Mark Fletcher’s New Idea award for collecting the most relevant big data efficiently across elective surgery lists;

  • pharmacist Amber Young for her New Ideas award-winning medication information project, integrating both tech and paper to tailor medication summaries for patients in an efficient and visually optimised format

  • Yvonne McFarlane, a resident at Dunedin Hospital who developed an idea for a simple one-page handover list that can be integrated into existing EMRs; and

  • public health physician Nick Eichler and his Auckland Public Health Service colleagues, with their TeleDOT electronic medication monitoring system for tuberculosis patients. By improving education and adherence, TeleDOT also aims to reduce the transport burden for patients and healthcare workers across the country while undergoing lengthy treatment.

Entries for the Clinicians Challenge close Friday 16 June- visit here to enter.

Other opportunities for the annual HiNZ and NZ Nursing Informatics Conferences are also open til Friday 16 June, including speaker and paper/abstract submissions. More details at hinz.org.nz.

Read our recaps of last year’s events at Day 12 and 3.

What It’s Like Attending Your First Hackathon

First published June 5, 2017

 

No matter your level of experience – or self-perceived lack of- hackathons are a great way for you to get started in tech.

At hackathons, you meet others interested in a good cause or tech solution for a pressing problem. Think “build a tech product in two days” and you get the idea. They’re usually themed; for example, Healthhack in Melbourne last year; the internationally-run Hacking Health (in Brisbane this year) and even food hackathons and fintech hacks in various cities. You’re usually presented with a problem to solve, either in advance of the event, or at the start of the event itself. Run as competitions, prizes and opportunities are usually on offer, ranging from prize money to course scholarships and introductions to advisors and mentors.

I’d bookmarked a ton of hackathons across Australia that kept cropping up at the wrong time; so it was a nice surprise when I Googled “hackathons” while visiting New York, and found out about AngelHack’s “Women in Tech Demo Day.

 

The Flatiron District, Saturday morning! Pic: The Medical Startup

 

I didn’t know what “Demo Day” meant. Basically, it means the event’s been announced some time ago, and you work on your project solo or with your team members in the weeks or days leading up to the event. This differs from more traditional hackathons, which may run for, say, 48 hours, and working around the clock to build that prototype with your team, even at 3am.  I’d signed up to Demo Day the week before, and with my NY schedule already packed, thought, well, no harm in just rocking up and observing if that’s all I can do!

But actually, AngelHack are good at knowing how randoms like me stumble upon opportunities like this. Using Slack, they created streams for each Women in Tech DD (#WITDemoDay) in each city (they also had Washington, D.C and Dallas events that year), so attendees could connect and form teams online, and work on their demos together to present on the actual event day.

There was also room for those who turned up on the day and decided to form a group while at the venue, which is what I ended up doing.

#WITDemoDay. Pic: The Medical Startup

Getting to the venue was exciting enough, being a Big Apple tourist. Held at sponsor Capital One’s offices in the Flatiron District (iconic enough for its own blog post really!), there was mingling amongst women and men of various ages and backgrounds throughout the event. Students, developers, graphic designers moving into code, project managers, professionals from other industries breaking into tech, and the random who flew from Australia (I got a few stares!) were all there. Very refreshing to see men at an event promoting opportunities for women. After an intro and warmup activity (and finding another Aussie!), we formed new groups or got into the ones we’d already arranged prior; and set to work on a tech solution for involving more girls and women in the tech world.

 

Food, glorious food  Pic: The Medical Startup

By the end of the day, wireframes and working prototypes for websites, apps, and even social media companies had formed. I’d made new friends, heard some very inspiring guest speakers, and gotten to soak up the fun atmosphere. Maybe it was the 39-degree heatwave outside, but it didn’t feel ultra-competitive- certainly, other groups had been preparing for weeks or days, and people wanted to win the $20,000 General Assembly course scholarship and other prizes, but for my new group who were talking about Pokemon Go (which was hot at the time), we were just racing the clock to present a simple prototype in time.

 

The 2016 winners of the Women in Tech Demo Day, NYC! Read more about them at Forbes by clicking on the image. Pic: The Medical Startup

Throwing yourself into a foreign situation like that forces you to quickly get comfortable being uncomfortable. Some of us were enrolling in beginner’s coding classes; others had graduated from computer science degrees and now wanted to use their skills in the real world. Still others had genuinely never typed a line of code in their lives, but wanted to see what it was like. And then it was also interesting experiencing hints of a startup culture in a different country, particularly a world business capital like New York. You learnt a lot in eight hours.

The presentations were really enjoyable. The winner turned out to be the Aussie I mentioned earlier, who presented HerReality, a virtual reality solution for educating girls about careers in tech through the eyes of the narrator. One of the other prizewinning teams was a group that had formed on Slack that same week and met for the first time in person that day! Women@Forbes writer Leah Ginsberg was one of the judges, and was so impressed by the finalists that she wrote about them later on. Imagine forming your team and attending your first hackathon, winning your first prize that same day, AND getting into Forbes! Wow.

I hope all this inspires you in some way to take a chance and try a new challenge. Whether it’s attending your first hackathon or another tech event, it’s great to stretch your boundaries and get a head start on tech terms and startup lingo- and pitching practice. (Not the baseball kind.) (Couldn’t resist.)

AngelHack’s Carlye Greene with guest speaker, entrepreneur and consultant Roopa Unnikrishnan. Pic: The Medical Startup

In the medical world, you can immerse yourself so deeply in medspeak that you forget how to dial it down and share your knowledge with others outside of med. It’s the same with code. I’ve since been to other events where, at pitching time, the audience struggles to understand the real-world application, the one-sentence pitch to non-coder investors and stakeholders, that is buried beneath the tech jargon. I think people are starting to mix more, however, and the cross-pollination of experiences will bring more cohesive events like Women in Tech Demo Day together.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a medical event. I learnt a lot and had a great time. And you could argue that improving tech education for girls could help a future nurse, doctor or other healthcare worker use their valuable tech skills throughout their careers!

This year’s AngelHack/Capital One Women in Tech Demo Day is coming up this month; check it out and register at womenintechdemoday.com. Also visit Angelhack.com for other hackathon opportunities around the world. 

This may ring a bell for Aussies who have been to Girl Geek Academy events– if you haven’t, register nowthey’re run by an awesome team and are branching into the States.

Also check out hackathon.io for lists of other hackathons around the world.  

How Can Facebook’s Spaces VR Program Help Patients and Consumers?

First published April 20, 2017

Overnight at Facebook’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg officially announced the launch of Facebook Spaces in beta. Using the Rift platform and available on the Oculus store, purportedly all that’s needed is Oculus Touch and an Internet connection.

 

Essentially, this means Facebook is adding virtual face-to-face interaction. This is a huge win for patients and healthcare consumers.

There are several ways in which we think virtual reality through Facebook will help patients, consumers and clinicians.

Patient communities are a burgeoning interest in healthtech. The Mayo Clinic Connect is an online messaging and education platform where patients and carers can chat with others suffering the same or similar illnesses. Australian app CancerAid is also building patient communities and sharing the burden of cancer with the millions affected by cancer worldwide, through their app for iOS and Android. Imagine the potential for communities to virtually “talk” with each other.

 

Patients can create avatars and share vivid experiences with each other, including their Facebook photos and 360 degree videos. Imagine taking a 360 video of your community hospital’s dialysis unit in Chile with your smartphoneand sharing that in real time with your friends in Norway.

 

facebookspaces1.jpeg

Screenshot from Facebook Spaces Oculus’ launch video.

The potential for healthcare education is huge. Facebook Spaces includes a drawing function, meaning that potentially, clinicians could educate patients and families in a more hands-on way, without needing to be in the same room as them. Of course, this helps students and clinicians train for procedures and study for exams, as well.  This could come in handy for rural and residential communities who may not be able to travel to the city for care so readily. Hospitals, clinics and education centres producing educational video content (such as the Royal Children’s Hospital) could potentially integrate their videos into Facebook Spaces, and nurses and staff could help teach with the added drawing function inside the virtual classroom. Imagine teaching a patient about what to expect from a hospital visit through a virtual tour on Facebook Spaces. (Or through our anaesthetist friend’s made-for-VR video!)

 

Facebook Spaces also adds another potential dimension to telehealth. Using Facebook Messenger, video calls can be made, including outside of Facebook to the “real world”. We imagine chatbots for Messenger like Amelie, the mental health chatbot, will have incredible functionality here, where the user’s virtual avatar can consult “face-to-face” with the chatbot counsellor. Sometimes it’s easier to chat to someone you can’t look directly in the eye, and we can imagine people who are too uncomfortable to talk to a face-to-face counsellor or who can barely get out of bed when in a bout of depression may find it easier to start with a chatbot. (One of Amelie’s functions is to guide the participant to further help, rather than replace a professional psychiatrist or psychologist.)

And from a global health perspective, users will be able to virtually “travel” with chatmates and experience different environments. This could help with disaster resource planning, for example sharing VR videos and 360 photos of earthquake – ravaged zones with aid organisations to help their planning for resources and deployment. Similarly, can you imagine how design of healthcare spaces will be impacted? Oculus’s YouTube video above shows a user sharing photos of the apartment she just bought. Again, the virtual tour aspect of public buildings and clinics can help plan for better patient care through architecture and design. Imagine sharing 360 pictures of your Emergency Department layout with other EDs around the world at conferences; or performing emergency simulation training through VR tours and demonstrations.

Are you an app developer or health tech startup founder? Now you have a whole new avenue of possibility to think about when integrating social functions into your product.

Of course, cautions about security and encryption of call content apply here, but just imagine the potential…

Got any ideas for how you will use Facebook Spaces in healthcare or for leisure? Comment below and please share this article if you enjoyed it. Sign up for our mailing list if you’d like more updates like these.