MPBE $10,000 Health Innovation Challenge

Years of frustration will soon be coming to an end for three award winners in the Medical Physics & Bioengineering (MPBE) Innovation Challenge as they develop solutions to everyday clinical problems.

The MPBE $10,000 Health Innovation Challenge, offered in association with Via Innovations ran during November 2014 and was open to everyone in the Canterbury Health System with an idea about improving patient care.

The winners of the 2014 Innovation Challenge are as follows:


Penny Coffey, Nephrology
"Device for Disabled Patients on Peritoneal Dialysis"



Alistair Humphrey, Medical Officer of Health
"Improving hand hygiene in Portaloos"


John Pickering (Research Scientist),
Geoff Shaw (Specialist, ICU),
Peter George (Clinical Director CHL / Medical Director Biochemistry)
"Real time monitoring of Renal Function"

Penny and her colleagues in the Home Dialysis Unit, Department of Nephrology, won the main award for their idea to improve peritoneal dialysis for disabled patients. 

Nephrology Charge Nurse Manager, Wendy Cuthill says that they have been looking at ways to assist this vulnerable group of disabled patients.

“All patients on peritoneal dialysis have a tough time but those with disabilities find it even tougher.  They are required to do their own dialysis (bag changes) four times a day – everyday.  This can make it difficult for people to remain safe at home and also increases their risk of infection.  These patients have both a chronic illness and a disability and can struggle to maintain their independence.  Our Home Dialysis Unit has a focus on keeping people safe at home doing their own dialysis.  We like to keep people out of hospital.  We are looking at ways we can extend their time at home and also make life easier for them,” says Wendy.

“We are ecstatic to receive funding to develop our ideas to assist peritoneal dialysis patients.  This will assist many of our elderly and disabled dialysis patients,” says Penny.

For runner up Dr Alistair Humphrey, it's all about hand washing. His entry, to improve hand washing in portaloos, will provide a means of increasing compliance of this very basic but vital task.

"Worldwide, poor hand washing accounts for around one million deaths each year. New Zealand alone experiences more than 34,000 cases of enteric disease – which is a disease of the intestine caused by any infection. Many of these could be prevented by better hand washing. Outbreaks are common at festivals and gatherings where portaloos are used," says Dr Humphrey.

The other runner up project, focusses on improving the monitoring of renal function for patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). It was submitted by John Pickering, Geoff Shaw and Peter George.  Dr Shaw says that every house surgeon, registrar or senior medical officer treating people who are unwell is asked to respond to a patient's reduction in urine production.

"Often the response to a drop in urine production is to give the patient more fluids but this can cause other issues. Without real-time monitoring of function it's like getting continual speeding tickets when your car doesn't have a speedometer. There's been no real progression in measuring renal function over the last 1000 years. We're thrilled to have the opportunity to offer something new," says Dr Shaw.

All three projects have great potential to prevent disease or treat it much more effectively. Lives will be saved, clinical hours reduced and precious resources conserved.

Page last reviewed: 20 March 2015