How a local neurosurgeon sees global and economic potential from supporting the growth of the startup community in Wollongong
A new health startup creating secure electronic records using blockchain technology thinks Wollongong is the ideal place to develop applications with global potential.
Secure Health Chain is the brainchild of local neurosurgeon Dr Robert Laidlaw who wants to build a connected world where health data can be shared securely for the benefit of everyone.
Dr Laidlaw’s vision is big but like any startup he has identified a starting point and begun to work on the process of realising his grand vision.
Initially he is developing an App which would allow a patient seeing a different GP to give permission for their practice to download their medical history rather than having to sit down with a clipboard and fill it all out manually.
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Dr Laidlaw is also an advocate for the advantages of a regional centres such as as Wollongong identifying ways to support their startup community.
He thinks the Illawarra is on the cusp of something significant in that space with benefits for employment and the whole economy.
Dr Laidlaw grew up in country Victoria, went to James Cook University in Townsville, did an internship in Brisbane, worked on the Gold Coast and then moved to Royal North Shore Hospital.
“I have lived here for four years now and I love this place,” he said.
“I have done three years of neurosurgery at Wollongong Hospital. This city has everything. You couldn’t find a better place. I have made amazing friends and have access to everything I could ever want.”
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While working as a neurosurgeon Dr Laidlaw found he had a passion for a startup idea and left full time work in February and incorporated his new business in April.
“I have seen many amazing people in the startup community in Wollongong. And I think that we should be encouraging the city to have more tech startups. There is so much talent at the uni.”
Unbeknown to Dr Laidlaw his comments coincided with representatives from the University of Wollongong addressing a Parliamentary inquiry on the need for more support for regional startups. An Upper House committee is looking into the effectiveness of NSW Government policies and incentives that could reduce barriers.
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But Dr Laidlaw said it was not only the government and the university that can make Wollongong more startup friendly for the benefit of the whole community.
He thinks many more jobs can be created locally for graduates and would love to see councils, business chambers and regional bodies do everything possible to support people with good startup ideas.
He is presently contacting local developers to help Secure Health Chain. He sees enormous potential in Wollongong and has applied for the next intake at iAccelerate.
But he says that may not be the answer for everyone with a startup idea and sees a future where startups pop up and create jobs in many locations around Wollongong and Shellharbour.
Dr Laidlaw’s bigger vision is to develop such a safe and secure system for medical data to be collected, that it can not only improve patient care but be used anonymously to solve some of health’s greatest challenges quickly. He said there are a number of breakthroughs in technology that will enable rapid advances in health care.
“That is the whole vision. But the first step is to get the basics right and do them well. We just need everyone to have a health record that is connected.”
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Dr Laidlaw said his motivation is to improve health care for everyone.
His starting point is to identify a central repository where the health data is kept with a patient’s consent. Everyone will rightly expect that to be 100 per cent secure. He sees blockchain technology as the key.
“Our motto is always available, always secure,” he said.
“And we want your information to be with you all the time but always safe. With our system if you go into a different GP your record will be on your phone which “will ask do you give persmission for this practice to read your file”. And you can say “yes I do for today only or for a week”. So it is permission based on different levels. There are different parts which mean you can allow just your medications or relevant history to be accessed, or the whole record. There are parts of our health data that are quite personal that we don’t want to share. So that is a feature that is integrated into what we are doing. The idea is that the patient controls the record. They have it in their Smart Phone and it is secure by being protected with blockchain.”