In 2008, Canberra local Matt Darling spent several months in hospital caring for one of his children. He could never have expected that that experience would lead him on a journey to help revolutionise the delivery of patient care in hospitals.
It all began when scans revealed that Darling’s daughter, 15-month old Jem, had a rare tumour on her brain that required surgery. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Darling recounted a story about a nurse running late in administering a vital post-operative steroid to Jem.
"They'd had to cut through large sections of Jem's brain. A common cause of death after that sort of surgery is a haemorrhage within the brain."
"I kept reminding her but she kept being distracted by people asking for this or that." Eventually, the medication was an hour overdue, “so I knocked on the office door of the nurse unit manager and asked for her help."
The manager checked Jem's chart and told him the records showed that the drug had been administered. The nurse stated that she had given Jem the medication when Darling had stepped away, however eventually confessed that this was not true.
It was this experience, and Darling’s observations that lead him to believe something needed to change. He didn’t believe it was the staff’s fault that these errors were occurring, instead that "It was the structure of the system, and the workload."
"The problem was not 'too many patients and too few nurses', but too much repetitive administration for nurses, who are generally highly qualified people," Darling said.
"We found that 65 per cent of a nurse's time was spent on records, administration and the like, and 35 per cent on patient interaction and care. Which is an astonishing statistic when you think about it." Read the full 'Sydney Morning Herald' article, Heart and Mind .
Darling, an IT systems analyst and designer, decided to come up with a new way for hospitals, nurses and medical professionals to perform many of these administrative tasks. The end result was SmartWard.
SmartWard aims to replace the paper records that hospitals currently use and automate many of the tasks that take time away from patient care. The system is intuitive to use and will be located at all points of care delivery in hospital preventing errors, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs.
SmartWard was awarded Innovation Connect (ICon) grant funding in 2010-11 to assist with development of the technology. In opening SmartWard’s new office in 2012, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallager stated “It was through this grant that the company has been able to move forward at a rapid rate and enabled them to accelerate their progress to market by expanding their development team and opening the office in the ACT”
"SmartWard is quickly making its mark on the e-Health industry both locally and on a national level by commercialising a new health informatics technology for hospital wards”. Read more in Canberra start-up company SmartWard opens new offices .
Following their ICon funding, SmartWard also received funding from the ANU Discovery Translation Fund and Commercialisation Australia.
This has helped SmartWard to get to the stage where clinical trials can begin on the computer system.