What is your health innovation? What does it aim to do?
The MCRI Sleep App is a digital intervention that helps parents manage their child’s behavioural sleep problems in the home. Sleep is a vital element of the daily routine and has been described as the “golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”. Child behavioural sleep problems (i.e. problems getting to sleep or waking up frequently at night) are varied and common, affecting up to 30% of typically developing children and up to 70% of children with developmental disorders. Insufficient sleep adversely impacts on a child’s (and parent’s) mental health, quality of life and ability to learn and cope. The MCRI Sleep App guides parents in a stepwise manner through a series of proven evidence-based strategies that have been personalised to the child’s needs. It has been developed by a team lead by sleep expert and paediatrician, Professor Harriet Hiscock at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Royal Children’s Hospital.
How is your innovation relevant to hospitals?
Behavioural sleep problems are typically poorly managed by parents and front line health professionals (GPs, maternal child health nurses). This means that children are quickly referred onto specialists and public and private sleep clinics, including the busy sleep clinic at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. The demand means long wait times for an appointment (6+ months) and causes significant stress and anxiety for families. The MCRI Sleep App delivers the educational content and strategies a sleep specialist at the Royal Children’s Hospital would otherwise give to parents face to face at their appointments. The App performs an initial “Sleep Check” to determine the behavioural sleep problem(s) being experienced and delivers personalised 1–4 week strategies. The strategies are broken down into daily tasks and reminders and the UI has been carefully thought through to maximise compliance.
What challenges have you come up against in developing your health innovation? What motivated you to keep going?
Transforming the logic and thought processes of a sleep specialist with many years of experience into a reliable decision tree and support tool has been a significant challenge. There are many different variables to consider. The beneficial impact that we have seen in the children and families who we have helped during the clinical trials used to develop the MCRI Sleep App is a strong motivator to keep us going.
What is one thing the public could do to help your innovation to succeed?
Provide feedback and tell their friends at this stage. Once the App is released we hope they will consider buying it. Proceeds from App sales will go back into more great research at MCRI.
What is the next step for your innovation?
We are currently completing a clinical trial of the MCRI Sleep App at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne with around 150 families. The clinical trial of the MCRI Sleep App builds on several recently completed MCRI randomised controlled trials. These past trials have shown that delivery of health professional educational content, parent handouts and evidence-based sleep strategies by trained school nurses resolved behavioural sleep problems of many of the children on the trials. The next step for the MCRI Sleep App will be to release it to the general public in Australia. We are exploring several models and partnerships to do this. We will continue to collect data and refine the MCRI Sleep App for a period before pushing it into other English speaking markets like the UK, US and Canada. In the future we would look to translate into other languages as well.
What are the benefits of developing your innovation in Australia?
Australia is a great place to conduct research and develop evidence based products. In addition to favourable R&D tax benefits, Australia has a well trained and resourced health and life science sector. The MCRI is one of the leading child health research institutes in the world. It is co-located on the Royal Children’s Hospital campus which also has a dedicated children’s clinical trial facility. Many of our researchers also hold clinical positions in the hospital so are well placed to understand real problems and also implement solutions quickly and efficiently. A unique feature of the MCRI is it also hosts an independent health technology company, Curve Tomorrow who we partner with to develop our technology solutions.
MCRI Sleep App is one of twelve Australian health innovations being showcased by Health Horizon at the 2018 World Hospital Congress in Brisbane. Find out more about our diverse Innovation Alley cohort here.
Heading to WHC? Be sure to check out the Health Horizon Innovation Alley Stands 65–70. Chat and learn more about our great cohort, search our 1000+ database of Australian innovations and add your own innovations to our growing global database.