Women as innovators [21.12.2011]

24.11.2011 Biobusiness.fi

Finnish female healthcare workers have developed award-winning new solutions to practical problems encountered in their daily jobs.

What does it take to make a female innovator? According to the results of the HealthPort Innovation Competition, the answer is curiosity, stamina, faith in your own abilities, and also a desire to help others. Another thing in common is a job where you come across a problem that needs solving.

Marianne Granlund, Gunilla Taddeo and Salla Koski from Finland are among the four winners of the HealthPort Innovation Award, distributed on 22 September at the ScanBalt Forum 2011 in Heringsdorf, Germany. The Health Port Innovation Competition boosted the commercial utilisation of ideas arising from the clinical environment and healthcare research in the Baltic Sea Region and in Northern Netherlands.

Handy suction tool for dental care

Granlund and Taddeo, two dental hygienists, were frustrated by the uncomfortable and unergonomic working posture required by the suction tools available for removing fluids from the dental patient's mouth. Driven by curiosity and a desire to make working easier, they developed Ergofinger, a unique disposable hand-held suction tip device that is attached to the dental worker's fingertip. The more natural working posture enabled by Ergofinger prevents repetitive strain injuries and musculoskeletal diseases that are common in dentistry. It improves visibility to the patient's mouth, speeds up work and eliminates extra movements needed when reaching out for a separate suction device.

"Today, people live longer and the aging population needs more and more dental care, causing the demand for dental care services to rise sharply. The potential users of Ergofinger include not only dental hygienists and assistants, but also dentists who work on their own, so there's considerable market potential worldwide for our invention," explains Taddeo.

Ergofinger is currently at prototype stage, and the dynamic duo is developing it further in cooperation with The Foundation for Finnish Inventions. "We hope to bring our product to the market by Spring 2012, and meanwhile we're preparing the establishment of a company of our own," says Granlund.

Helping children get their diabetes in control

"Most women innovators want to help people, rather than just get rich quickly, as many men do," claims Salla Koski, a licensed physiotherapist and founder of MODZ Ltd. www.modz.fi. She and her team have developed Dr. Modz, a user-friendly diabetes management system for juvenile diabetics.

Her award-winning innovation consists of a portable blood glucose meter and exercise booster device incorporated into a small skull-shaped mobile phone. The children suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes carry the device in a strap over their chests, and it reminds them to do the blood glucose level measurement at a given time - usually before lunch. If the children forget the measurement, the mobile phone, which comes with a real-time data transfer system, sends a text message to their parents and also to the therapeutic team's online result board.

Designed for and with the end users

"The blood glucose meters currently on the market are based on the needs of medical care workers, not the end users," Koski points out. "I have worked with juvenile diabetics and I realised that unless the meters are designed with the childrens' real needs in mind, the children won't be motivated to use them, and the treatment results won't be good."

Koski has studied also industrial design and has become a specialist in health technology usability. She believes that motivating the users is a key factor in creating better self-care products, which is why Dr. Modz has been designed in cooperation with children. The finalised Dr. Modz product will be launched in autumn 2012 after user testing.

Many promising inventions

"The jury received many promising inventions at different stages of the product development path. When choosing the winners, we emphasized the clinical need and the market potential of the submitted entries," says program director Riikka Paasikivi of Culminatum Innovation, who acted as the Chairman of the jury.

The other two HealthPort Innovation Awards were given to Oxygen Soother, an adaptor for oxygen tubes developed by the Ideas Clinic at Aalborg Hospital in Denmark, and GoodLife, a series of tools for occupational wellbeing developed by the Goodlife team in Finland.

The HealthPort Innovation Competition aimed to find clinical inventions that can be translated into commercial products and services that benefit patients. It was organized by Culminatum Innovation as part of the BSHR HealthPort project, co-financed by the Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013.


Leena Koskenlaakso



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