The HCF Catalyst program is in its fourth year and welcomes entrepreneurs who want to help transform the future of healthcare delivery.
According to CEO Sheena Jack, the driving force behind the development of the HCF Catalyst program, Australia’s first corporate-backed health tech accelerator was about creating an opportunity to foster innovation in areas that aligned with the insurer's strategic vision to make health care understandable, affordable, high-quality and customer-centric.
One example has been the Soldier.ly app developed by former soldier Chris Rhyss Edwards based on his own experiences.
A text message from a friend was the wake-up call he needed to stop a suicide attempt and he is now drawing on his own experience to deliver mental health support to veterans using the Soldier.ly app.
Soldier.ly received support from the HCF Catalyst accelerator program to develop a smartwatch app that uses biometric data to detect the early stages of stress and anxiety which then offers prompts and easy-to-follow exercises to help manage these symptoms.
More than 5,000 men and women leave the Australian Defence Force each year. Many of them struggle with adapting to everyday life following their service. Between 2001 and 2015, there were 325 suicides among people who served in the Australian defence force.
“Many veterans do not like to ask for help. Social stigma is a big barrier stopping veterans from seeking support for mental health issues, making them more likely to contemplate suicide. On the day I almost attempted suicide, that text message from my friend was what took me out of a dangerous state of mind. In that moment, I was not reaching out for help on my own,” said Chris.
Chris’s original app idea would have required veterans to input information about their current mental state. HCF Catalyst program supported Soldier.ly to create a program that does not rely on veterans to self-report their symptoms.
“The mentoring and support I received from the HCF Catalyst program allowed me to expand my business idea into something greater. I was able to develop the Soldier.ly app, which utilises Fitbit’s smartwatch capabilities, to give veterans support that doesn’t rely on self-reporting.”
It also hosts a database of Ex-Service Organisations across Australia so veterans experiencing a mental health episode can see what nearby services are available to them.
Since participating in HCF’s 12-week accelerator program, Chris has been collaborating with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to make the technology more accessible to veterans.
Chris is planning to expand Soldier.ly to make it available to the general population. He is also exploring the option of trialling the app with HCF staff.
“I am grateful to have been connected to HCF CEO Sheena Jack through the HCF Catalyst program. She provided me with advice and connections that allowed the business to grow significantly in a short period of time. We are now looking forward to working with HCF executives to test the technology.”
“Our entire organisation gets behind the HCF Catalyst program. It is inspiring for us to be able to work with entrepreneurs like Chris who are dedicated to improving the lives of others,” added Ms Jack.
“The issue of mental health goes beyond the veterans’ community. One in five Australians experience a mental illness in any year, but only half of these people will seek treatment. Through the HCF Catalyst program, we are able to support the development of health solutions making health services accessible to our members and all Australians through new and innovative technology.”
Applications for the 2019 HCF Catalyst program open in October. More information is available online.