How ‘What the Doctor Said’ Helps Patients After An Emergency Department Visit

Pictured, from left, Gavin Pinto and Dr Sarah Doyle represented the What the Doctor Said team at the 2021 WA INCITE Awards.

It’s early morning and your child is sick with fever. You rush them to the hospital’s emergency department (ED). You’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed. When your doctor tries to explain what’s happened to your child and how you can best take care of them when they go home, the words go in one exhausted ear and out the other.

Until it’s the next morning, and you’re trying to recall, “Wait, what was it the doctor said?”

While working in a busy ED, Dr Sarah Doyle witnessed this situation facing patients and their families every day. It’s a challenge for clinicians to write thorough, personalised home care instructions in language accessible for patients of all backgrounds, especially when you add the extra time pressure of ED care.

Kickstarting her entrepreneurial journey

Dr Doyle credits the Kenneth Myer Fellowship for helping her kickstart her entrepreneurial journey, developing an idea from a basic template used by her and her colleagues into a digital platform with extended customisation and interactivity.

Today, What the Doctor Said is a platform allowing doctors to create personalised mobile-accessible home care instructions for their patients that has been successfully piloted at two WA hospital EDs. Planning is now underway to trial the system in further adult EDs and hospital outpatient clinics with particular emphasis on providing patients with home instructions for oral opioid medicines.

Director of Stakeholder Engagement WA, MTPConnect, and the WA Life Sciences Innovation Hub, Dr Tracey Wilkinson has been there to support Dr Doyle along the journey.

Dr Wilkinson says many companies come to the WA Life Sciences Innovation Hub looking for commercialisation help, which the Hub is well positioned to provide, leveraging expertise within the Hub as well as the national MTPConnect team.

“We see companies founded by amazing clinicians who bring that lived experience to their innovations, but often there’s a missing key ingredient: understanding how to make that innovation a commercial product so that it has impact on patients,” Dr Wilkinson said.

Drawing on decades of experience across the sector

The WA Innovation Hub team draws on decades of experience across the sector to provide strategic advice on grant opportunities, and research and industry connections.

“The team can help organisations refine their strategies, which often involves looking at new opportunities and perspectives through a commercial lens. As start-ups are also resource-constrained, we also work hard to make sure that they know about upcoming opportunities as soon as possible,” Dr Wilkinson said.

Dr Doyle notes that this commercial eye was pivotal in being awarded an Innovation Seed Grant by the Future Health Research and Innovation Fund in 2022.

More than $8 million was awarded to 17 WA innovation projects through the Innovation Seed Fund 2022, providing funding to drive health and medical research, innovation, and commercialisation.

“I wrote the application, but I didn’t have that commercialisation angle. Tracey’s feedback was so helpful, based on years of knowledge and experience. I credit Tracey with helping me get it over the line,” Dr Doyle said.

Innovation opportunities in Western Australia

Dr Doyle also acknowledges the help of the Hub in highlighting opportunities to showcase the company on larger stages like the WA INCITE Awards in 2021. The INCITE Awards are WA’s longest running tech awards program, showcasing and supporting ICT innovators in WA.

“I would not have applied for the WA INCITE Awards without a nudge – I just wouldn’t have done it,” Dr Doyle says. The company received the 2021 INCITE Social Impact Award, going on to compete at the National iAwards where they won the Chief Judge Innovation Award and were merit winners of the Not-for-Profit & Community Award.

In her presenter’s speech at the 2022 INCITE Awards, Dr Wilkinson highlighted the importance of initiatives like the INCITE Awards, addressing a crowd of innovators, entrepreneurs, tech leaders and public sector representatives.

“These Awards are an invaluable investment in raising your profile and building awareness of your innovation in WA and beyond. Everyone here knows the reality, that an ‘overnight success’ is actually many, many years in the making, and it is important that we embrace opportunities like the INCITE Awards to pause, step back, and take in what great work is being done in our sectors.”

‘What the Doctor Said’ experienced the benefits of INCITE Awards connectivity firsthand in 2021 when Dr Doyle met representatives from fellow award winners East Metropolitan Health Service at the Awards ceremony. The two organisations have gone on to forge a strong collaborative relationship.

The importance of networking and different perspectives

Dr Wilkinson believes that other WA innovators should keep an open mind and network to help them along the commercialisation journey.

“You never know what different perspective will help you solve a difficult challenge – like a grant application – or what networking event or program will lead to a new collaboration.

“The Hub is here to support your amazing ideas and help bring them to the world!”

The WA Life Sciences Innovation Hub is a partnership between MTPConnect, the Western Australian Government and the University of Western Australia (UWA) to accelerate the growth of the state's MTP sector, create new jobs and support economic diversification.