Why the focus on Substance Addiction?
Substance Addiction is a particularly impactful disease burden, as it contributes to a bunch of other health and social issues, whilst also simultaneously affecting the life trajectory of some of our most vulnerable people in their most important life stages, particularly their first 1000days. It also has a disproportionate impact on emerging adults lives and contributes to a range of adverse life circumstances in a series of negative feedback loops.
Regardless of whether it's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, methamphetamine, ICE, opioids, prescription drugs or alcohol addiction, we're conscious that journeys start and change with different choices - but it needs effective, modern supports along the way, that can be accessed easily, quickly. With lived experience of remote communities and an intimate understanding of how thinly spread experienced practitioners and services can be, we wanted to do our part to address the growing burden of addiction issues, particularly for regional, rural and remote areas.
We've been around the block a few times for national scale technology projects, helping to deliver national case management, asset management and service delivery systems, the My Hospitals / My Healthy Communities websites, visiting remote areas for OATSIH projects among others during a varied health + technology consulting career path. It's a good time to be applying targeted focus to stubborn problems in the sector whilst addressing the need for scale that can service remote areas that are just not covered.
Who do you collaborate with?
Whilst we're based on Central Coast NSW, we've established formal alliance arrangements with key collaboration partners to help ensure we're on-point and focussed in our early stages of CoDesign, whilst also simultaneously taking the best patterns we can find in translational research to ensure we stay grounded in evidence based outcomes. Our collaboration partners include the Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research Priority Research Centre at University of Newcastle, The Glen Centre at Chittaway Bay (who do fantastic work), Valley Medical in Newcastle and others with Lived Experience of the Consumer, Clinician and Carer perspectives. Naturally, we welcome approaches and enquiries from others who can help us achieve the scale we're targeting and particularly welcome regional, rural and remote area collaborators.
How can I become involved?
Right now, we're looking for input from Carers, Consumers and Clinicians working in the sector to validate and refine some of our early design work and prototypes. We've been self-funding efforts so far and have a bunch of work ahead to do, so would ask that people consider the value in making a small commitment to support our work through Patreon. The work that we're doing will transform into a commercialisation pathway that recognises the challenges of the health sector we're delivering to, but it's early days and we need all the help we can get to make that possible.
Why not use an Incubator or Accelerator?
We love the role that startup accelerators play in the innovation and commercialisation landscape. Our founder has been part of program delivery roles for Slingshot Accelerator, has facilitated Startup Weekends, hackathons and short innovation events and is a volunteer board member at Eighteen04. However, many of them are designed around 10-12week programs where traction can be achieved quickly in the lead up to DemoDay - that means they need to exclude more time+tech+regulatory intensive initiatives. In our case, we're designing and building tools that are categorised as Software as a Medical Device, since we're looking to deliver evidence backed research translation tools for therapeutic impact. That means tools need to go through more stringent regulatory checks and balances, clinical trials and scrutiny, as you'd expect. We know that's a longer timeframe commitment and puts us beyond the reach of many Accelerator programs. As a bootstrapped, self-funded initiative, this also has to be balanced against other commercial delivery and family responsibilities.
Why now? Who else?
Delivery of web based therapeutic interventions is not a novel concept - it's been around for a while. However, there's a range of interesting and relevant technology advances that are making new engagement methods viable, which we're assessing as part of our platform concept development work. We're also making sure we stay grounded in core concepts of good CoDesign methods, supporting anonymity/pseudonymity and leveraging the power of modern handheld computing devices, rather than translating or republishing desktop software, whilst integrating leading edge research ethics methods.
Naturally, we're not the only ones exploring the space - there are bigger fish tackling the problem. In the US, estimates of the market size are around $35bUSD for the Addiction Treatment market.
However, we think there are some unique characteristics in the Australian market that need tightly targeted tools, which may prove relevant for other contexts, noting that there is, as yet, little regulatory accomodation of App prescribing in our health system.
How does this help regional areas?
Take a look at the map in this embedded tweet at right. How many AOD services do you see for WesternNSW? Plenty of people live there, but it's a region notoriously under serviced - we know, as it's where we've spent time living, working, travelling and adventuring. That's where we think modern digital interaction methods, driven by a strong evidence base and good design, can help reduce the isolation and help close the gap.