Back care programme scoops top health innovation award

Winning project developed by Cork physiotherapist Aoife Collins

The competition attracted more than 180 applications  from HSE staff. Photograph: iStock

The competition attracted more than 180 applications from HSE staff. Photograph: iStock


An innovative back care programme delivered through an online platform has been named as winner of this year’s Spark Ignite Innovation competition.

The winning project was from Aoife Collins, a senior physiotherapist and coordinator of Active Back Care Program in Cork South Lee PCC’s physiotherapy department. The Rapid-Access Online Active Back Care (ABC) Programme, an evidence-based, group-rehabilitation programme, will be adapted and delivered online via a customisable platform provided by Salaso Health Solutions.

“To be shortlisted in such a competitive contest has given me the confidence to believe in my innovation and drive it forward,” Ms Collins said. “Winning this competition has shown me that innovative healthcare is essential to continuously improve HSE service provision, and that Spark Ignite offers the support needed to all frontline staff to develop their ideas from a spark to their fruition.”

The best overall team winner was also from Cork, with Dr Kevin Deasy and Dr Marcus Kennedy scooping the award for their plan to develop a low cost flat-pack bronchoscopy and pleural ultrasound kit for home assembly and remote learning, with the ultimate goal of developing a formal, well-researched simulation programme.

More than 180 applications were received from HSE staff around the State, with 36 finalists chosen for a bespoke Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) innovation workshop. Health Innovation Hub Ireland (HIHI) was established by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Health, supported by Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to drive collaboration between the health service and enterprise.

The competition is a collaboration between HIHI, the Office of the Nursing and Midwifery Services Director (ONMSD), National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP), the Health and Social Care Professionals Office (HSCP) and the Quality Improvement Team (QIT).

It is open to 115,000-plus HSE staff across all disciplines and departments, with the goal of helping staff in the health service with a solution to a problem, challenge, or unmet need in healthcare, to validate the need, and determine if a market exists for their proposed solution, product, or service.

The finalists developed their ideas with mentorship from the HIHI national team, before advancing to regional pitching finals in Cork, Dublin and Galway.

The ideas were judged by a panel of experts from industry, venture capital investment, Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland, public and private healthcare, and academia.

The best single applicant and best team applicant from each region were then put forward to the national final held this week, receiving €3,000 each. Three additional prizes of €1,000 were awarded. The winner of the national final for the individual and team category received a further €2,000 toward their innovation.


“It is always a pleasure to deliver this programme to support innovation from our healthcare staff – the quality of ideas and calibre of presentations was outstanding,” said Dr Tanya Mulcahy, interim director, HIHI. “What was really clear this year was that through the HIHI workshops and support from the HIHI mentors, good ideas of high value and impact were developed.”

HSE chief executive Paul Reid commended both winning projects.

“Our health service has encountered great challenges in recent times but throughout it all, HSE workers have demonstrated tremendous determination and navigated great obstacles via creativity and innovation. It is more important now than ever before that this approach is encouraged and championed, and I believe that the HSE-HIHI Spark Ignite Innovation Competition is the perfect opportunity to discover new and better ways of service delivery,” he said.

“It is heartening to see the increase in applications this year, which aptly demonstrates the commitment HSE workers have to growth and improvement in the face of adversity.”

Special recognition was given by Bank of Ireland to two further projects, with Claire Ahern, a senior radiographer at BreastCheck West, Galway, recognised for the individual Best Innovation in Healthcare for the AniMammo project. The team award went to Edel Siney, Andy Byrne and Brian O’Ceallaigh for the Upper Limb Rehab app.