Clinicians’ Challenge 2017

The winners have now been announced for the 2017 Clinicians’ Challenge, a joint initiative by the Ministry of Health and Health Informatics New Zealand (HiNZ).

We received 41 impressive entries to the challenge and judges had a hard task selecting just two finalists in each category (new idea and active project). The finalists presented their cases at the 2017 HiNZ conference in Rotorua, 1-3 November, with the winners announced at the awards lunch on the last day.


New idea: a disruptive innovation for a digital system or application to deliver health services in new ways to enhance patient outcomes, improve workflows, deliver efficiencies and/or support more integrated care.

Active project/development: an innovation for a system or application being developed, or already developed, that improves the way people work, supports better patient care, delivers efficiencies and results in more integrated health services.


Active project category

Skin disease image recognition tool

This tool has been proposed by Associate Professor Amanda Oakley and daughter Emily as an addition to the DermNet New Zealand website which Amanda founded. They aim to use Artificial Intelligence software to identify images of skin diseases through pattern recognition leading to quicker, easier and more accurate diagnosing.

The tool would be available to healthcare providers, free or low cost, in remote and urban locations globally and accessed by any mobile or desktop device with an internet connection. It’s estimated that one in six visits to a doctor are for skin complaints and many communities worldwide have very limited access to dermatologists.

New idea category

Online immunisation catch-up calculator

Southern DHB’s Jillian Boniface and Leanne Liggett propose an online immunisation catch-up calculator for immigrant or refugee children to bring them in line with the New Zealand schedule.  Planning immunisation catch ups is a complex, time consuming and manual process for busy practice nurses. An online immunisation calculator would simplify data collection, improve workflow efficiencies, support timely clinical delivery and ensure the National Immunisation Register is updated.

Runners Up

Active project category

Ask Ruru crisis communications app

Created by registered nurse Dion Howard from Capital & Coast DHB and development team Jaymesh Master, Michael Smith and Rosie Parry, the Ask Ruru app improves access to information by creating a log of all crisis-based communications between community health workers and young adults/teenagers (who generally communicate via phone or text messaging). This information is invaluable for analysis, earlier intervention, deciding on therapeutic models and managing ongoing crisis support, enabling mental health professionals to deliver safer, more effective crisis coaching to this demographic.

The app is accessed via mobile devices with plans to host it to cloud to enable desktop access.

New idea category

Ketometer to assist compliance with low carbohydrate diets

Simon Thornley and his team at Auckland Regional Public Health Service have developed an electronic breath ketone sensor for tracking the adherence of people with metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes to a low carbohydrate diet. Low carbohydrate diets can help with weight loss and improved glycaemic control in patients with diabetes. Ketones are a by-product and measure of fat metabolism, and can be used to monitor compliance with such diets.

The electronic breath ketone sensor has the potential to be an important and low-cost clinical tool to improve adherence to a low carbohydrate diet.

The winners of the 2017 Clinicians' Challenge
Left to right: Active project/development category runner up Dion Howard; new idea category winners Jillian Boniface and Leanne Liggett; active project/development category winners Dr Amanda Oakley and Emily Oakley; new idea category runner up Simon Thornley.


  • The winner in each category will receive a grant of $8000. 
  • The runner up in each category will receive a grant of $2000.
  • All four finalists will receive free registration to the 2017 HiNZ conference, valued at more than $1300 each. 

Finalists could use their grant to further develop their product, conduct more research, carry out a site visit or attend a relevant conference.

Previous winners

Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, one of the 2015 winners.
Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, one of the 2015 winners.

2016 winners were:

  • Dr Mark Fisher, an anaesthetist at Counties Manukau DHB, who won in the new ideas category for his shared preoperative workbench for elective surgery initiative. 
  • Nick Eichler and his colleagues from Auckland Regional Public Health Service who won in the active project/development category for their TeleDOT, which enables patients receiving TB treatment to record taking their medication on their smartphone.

2015 winners were:

  • Dr James McKelvie, Senior Registrar, Waikato DHB, who won the new ideas category for his electronic referral, risk assessment and real-time audit of cataract surgery initiative.
  • Dr Hong Sheng Chiong, Ophthalmology Registrar, Gisborne Hospital, who won the active project/development category for his oDocs Eye Care initiative which uses mobile technology to increase access to ophthalmic care. (pictured)

2014 winners were a team from Nelson Marlborough DHB who developed Emergency Department at a Glance. This is a dashboard system providing real-time information on patients, their waiting times, symptoms, treatment and location. It also allows emergency staff to quickly see the severity of cases, as well as showing any patients on their way by ambulance or helicopter.

2013 winners were Dr Aniva Lawrence and Dr Kyle Eggleton, who proposed an online health survey for young people which could then be put into an electronic record and used to provide targeted health services. Young people visiting a youth clinic or their GP could complete a survey via an iPad application, with the results automatically uploaded for health professionals to view. They could then use the information to build an accurate picture of the needs of their youth population.

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