Where are they now? Checking in with our previous Health Hack winners!

Tackling real-world problems is no mean feat, but it is what the Welsh Health Hack is all about, and on the eve of the latest Hack, we’re introducing you to some of the event’s previous winners, who have gone on in double-quick time to bring their ideas to life!

Hosted by M-SParc and partners, the Welsh Health Hack offers support from a £200,000 pot to the best innovators and problem-solvers to tackle health challenges, and two of the last hack’s winners are already making a real difference with their projects.

Find out more about two of our previous winners below!

Dr Simon Burnell – MASK-COMMS

A team led by Ysbyty Gwynedd Anaesthetist, Dr Simon Burnell, received £8,000 to develop a short-range communication aid for use whilst wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The project responds to one of many challenges faced during the pandemic, after identifying that face masks in hospital prevents staff from communicating clearly. Simon’s challenge of needing clear communication was met at the Hack by the solution of designing a microphone small enough to fit inside any face mask and transmit wirelessly to a wearable loudspeaker.

Since receiving their funding at the end of May, Dr Burnell and his team have moved very quickly to develop their first prototype and began testing in September. Dr Burnell said: “Communication is essential during procedures where the anaesthetic and surgical teams work closely, but health and safety is also paramount, so masks cannot be removed to talk to each other.

“The downside to wearing facial masks is that our voices become muffled and indistinct, and we cannot read facial cues. My team proposed a solution which allows a device to be placed in any mask, which can transmit to every colleague, or to one communal speaker, without compromising the PPE."

Dr Burnell and his team were able to make use of the Ffiws makerspace at M-SParc, with Enterprise Hub- and team-member Wyn Griffiths more than familiar with the space. This allowed much of the prototyping work to be done quickly, and effectively, while keeping costs low.

Dr Sarah Brent – Clear Face Masks

This particular innovation has received nationwide coverage and receiving widespread attention in the national press and news channels.

Dr Sarah Brent’s challenge was the difficulty communicating with patients who have issues such as hearing loss or dementia, during a time where masks are mandatory. The solution from her team was to develop clear face masks to be used in health settings to support better care. The masks are see-through and have an anti-fogging barrier to ensure the face and mouth are always visible to help health care professionals communicate better with their patients.

Dr Sarah Bent, Principal Clinical Scientist in Audiology for Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said “Our Audiologists recognised the issue around face masks back in April 2020, so we pitched the concept with our team at the M-SParc Health Hack and received an award of £2,500 from Awyr Las. Since then, we have been testing different options suitable for lip-reading and seeing the face and are due to publish our results soon.

“We are now working with companies across Wales and England to design and develop different options suitable for health and social care. We are delighted that the Clear Masks have been approved for use during the pandemic and will now be available to trial throughout the NHS. We hope many other options, including those made in Wales, will soon follow.”

The Welsh Health Hack is hosted by M-SParc in collaboration with NHS Wales, the Bevan Foundation, Life Sciences Hub Wales, MediWales, Accelerate, Digital Health Ecosystem Wales, B-Enterprising, SBRI Centre of Excellence, AgorIP, the Enterprise Hub and sponsored by Welsh Government.

For more information on this year’s Welsh Health Hack, visit HERE for all you need to know plus instructions on how to get involved!

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