22 OCTOBER 2019
As a physiotherapy student on clinical placement, Aaya Hakeem saw the emotional toll on knee replacement patients struggling through rehabilitation and set to work building a solution.
Despite following exercises from their physios as best they could, recovery was slow and gruelling as they grappled at home with uncertainty around how far to push themselves in exercises, and fear of injuring their precious new knee.
“When I asked my supervisors why we don’t have a solution to this problem, I was told that that’s just the way it is – that answer just wasn’t good enough,” recalls Aaya, now Co-Founder and Development Manager at GenuFlex.
“I’ve seen the suffering these patients face, and I feel it’s a complete waste of time and emotional energy for patients and therapists.”
Knee replacement rehabilitation costs our economy AU$700 million a year, and $7 billion is spent on inpatient rehabilitation in the USA after knee replacements.
When we add knee replacement risk factors of our world’s ageing populations and rising levels of weight and obesity, and population growth, it becomes clear that we urgently need solutions to reduce the burden on lives, healthcare systems and economies.
Driven to help get patients back to doing what they love, faster, Aaya set to work developing GenuFlex – at first transforming her dining room table into a space for creativity, invention and grit.
Her world-first device helps patients to do exact exercises from their physios and to move as much as possible – and in turn reduce stiffness, increase mobility and speed up recovery.
There are always challenges on the road to bringing a new MedTech device to life. For Aaya, it has been hard to come out of her shell and try to communicate with other therapists and health professionals – a common experience for people navigating complexity, but one that is essential to creating health solutions.
“It’s very scary to come up with something like this for fear I’ve missed something, that the idea will be shot down or I will look stupid or like I just want to make a quick buck,” says Aaya.
“I’ve tried to overcome this by reminding myself that this project isn’t about me, it’s about who will benefit. And they deserve a fair go.”
Her bravery and commitment to doing better for patients has paid off: Aaya recently became a MedTech’s Got Talent Challenge Rapid Fire Rounds finalist and will now go on to compete in the Gala Finals in December.
On this black-tie night of nights, HealthTech entrepreneurs from across Australia – and for the first time, India – will battle it out for a share in $50,000 prizes in front of investors, industry experts, government and corporates. For the first time, budding entrepreneurs from Australian schools will also pitch.
Aaya’s new mentor, Greg Rogers from Vestech will be working closely with her in the coming weeks to help her really shine for the judges, and to ultimately accelerate her HealthTech innovation to change lives.
To any aspiring HealthTech entrepreneurs out there, Aaya urges them to just go for it.
“You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by pursuing this pathway. Even if you don’t manage to make a product that takes off, the journey is a huge learning experience that will benefit most other parts of your career.”
Thank you to our major Challenge partners and sponsors – we couldn’t do this without you: The Federal Government, The Department of Industry, Innovation & Science; The Victorian Government, The Department of Jobs, Precincts & Regions; Global Victoria; LaunchVic; Government of Karnataka; Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre; Johnson & Johnson; Cook Medical; Medtronic; K&L Gates; Vestech; IDE Group; Design + Industry; Tricycle Developments; Ingenuity Electronics Design; Outerspace Design; MiniFAB; LEAP Australia and Wave Digital.