​​​Dr. Geoff Fernie, Institute Director, Toronto Rehab Research

Above, Geoff Fernie, Institute Director, Toronto Rehab Research, left, with Michael Tsang, Managing Director, Handy Audit. (Photo: UHN)

HandyAudit is the latest product to be launched into the marketplace by Toronto Rehab Research.

Dr. Geoff Fernie, Institute Director, Toronto Rehab Research, has been at the forefront of commercializing health-care products, guiding them through the initial research studies, product development, and the creation of start-up companies.

"The commercialization process presents stumbling blocks for many Canadian health-care researchers," said Fernie. "As a result, many great devices, technologies, treatments don't make it to the consumer."

Fernie and his team have made it a priority to address these stumbling blocks so that innovations reach consumers.

​Launched into marketplace

In 2010, HandyAudit was launched into the marketplace and has seen rapid growth in its user-base, with over 170 hospital sites currently using the tool.

More recently, in April, after being incubated at Toronto Rehab for three years, the growing start-up company – HandyMetrics- responsible for commercializing the tool moved out of the hospital to new offices, accommodating more staff.

HandyAudit is an electronic tool developed by the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TR) that helps hand hygiene auditors monitor, record and report hand hygiene data objectively, accurately and consistently.

Currently, paper-based observation systems are cumbersome, slow and prone to human error, reducing the effectiveness of the data. HandyAudit provides the necessary data to determine the steps to improve a health-care institution's hand hygiene.

Getting innovations to consumers

"There are two problems in getting research out into the commercial world," said Fernie. "One is the lack of funding to develop products from research to prototyping. And, the second is the challenge of getting your first customer – this is difficult for a start-up."

Toronto Rehab helped HandyMetrics get through the early stages of development and facilitated product testing in its inpatient units.

"We incubate our start-ups and locate them on-site to mitigate the upfront costs and make it feasible for the companies and products to succeed, and get them to consumers and institutions who need them," explained Fernie.

For example, start-ups like HandyMetrics pay for their space, but on a flexible payment schedule to lessen the financial burden.

In the case of HandyMetrics, Toronto Rehab also facilitated a relationship with The Council of Academic Hospital of Ontario (CAHO) – which resulted in the company securing its first clients.

"CAHO's support brought us product orders from 16 of its member hospitals," said Michael Tsang, Managing Director, HandyAudit, who created the product while doing graduate work with Dr. Fernie. "Without them it wouldn't have worked."

Timing is right

HandyMetrics now has six full-time employees and one part-time employee.

"It's really tough out there in terms of bringing hospital innovations to the market," said Tsang. "Without Geoff and Toronto Rehab's support, we wouldn't be around."

The timing was right for HandyMetrics to move out. The incubation process is complete: more than 170 hospital sites in Canada and abroad are using HandyAudit, including Johns Hopkins and Denver Health.

"We're strong enough financially to operate independently and we're excited for set up our new office and build our own culture," said Tsang.

Fernie and his team will continue to support HandyMetrics in its further development. The hospital will also continue to receive royalties from sales.

"There is an innovations pipeline at Toronto Rehab validated by research," said Tsang. "HandyMetrics is a great success story showcasing how researchers are taking good ideas into the real world and impacting quality of health care."

Watch the HandyAudit video​​​

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