Innovation for medication error prevention and virtual reality learning win HealthTech awards

Veriphi has spent 7 years and $6 million.

A medical device aimed at preventing medication errors in hospitals and a virtual reality simulator for teaching radiologists are winners of this year's HealthTech awards.

The Start-Up Opportunity award went to Auckland-based Veriphi which last month raised $706,000 after seeking up to $2 million on crowdfunding platform Snowball Effect.

The company's founder and managing director is Greg Shanahan, who is behind the annual TIN 100 report on the country's leading technology companies. His aim is to eventually grow Veriphi to be a leading figure on the TIN100 which is based on revenue.

Veriphi has spent 7 years and $6 million developing a patented laser analyser which scans intravenous lines and bags along with syringes to detect if the drug and the dosage is correct. Medication error is the most common cause of patient harm in hospitals, with an estimated 120 deaths a year in New Zealand while up to 15 percent of medication errors are thought to go unreported.

The start-up is beginning validation trials later this year at Auckland Hospital pharmacy after it built a commercial prototype which will include proprietary IV consumables that create recurring revenue. The trial will involve verifying 15 oncology drugs. Trials at other New Zealand hospitals and in Melbourne and New York are also planned after the Auckland trial is complete.

The audience award went to Virtual Medical Coaching which is a radiation-free simulator that allows users to perform radiographic examinations as if they were in the real world. The target market is universities that currently train radiology students on physical simulators which are expensive to buy and maintain and require students to be supervised regularly as they are in a radiation environment.

Founder James Hayes has worked in medical imaging for the past 20 years and has partnered with Christchurch company Corvecto to develop the virtual reality technology. Corvecto has designed virtual and augmented reality solutions for some of the world's biggest brands such as Disney and DreamWorks.

Hay said he wanted to make learning as addictive as video games and as yet has no direct competitors worldwide in this field. The start-up has developed a working prototype and is seeking $400,000 from investors to help take it to market.

Originally he was targeting English-speaking countries but has since had inquiries from universities in China, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia and realised it would be relatively easy to have the English words contained in the simulator translated.

Most students love it and when asked what their teachers think of it, Hay said: "Most educators love it and the ones that don't are the ones about to retire."

New Zealand's health technology sector generated over $1.3 billion in revenue last year with $996 million coming from medical device companies and $321 million from health IT companies. However, health IT companies reported the largest average revenue growth at 35 percent.

NZ Health IT chief executive Scott Arrol said NZ health IT companies have only been exporting for around 15 years and the sector is now seeing major growth potential as "global investors are turning to developed countries that are committed to, and can demonstrate continuous innovation".


BusinessDesk receives funding to help cover the commercialisation of innovation from Callaghan Innovation.

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