Schulich and OCAD U students collaborate to win health-care challenge

Schulich School of Business
Schulich School of Business

Collaborating MBA and master’s students from York’s Schulich School of Business and the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) are considering taking two innovative product ideas to market after winning the business school’s annual Sanofi Pasteur Healthcare Venture Challenge April 23.

The annual Sanofi Pasteur Healthcare Venture Challenge, this year titled “Boomer Life to Zoomer Life: Redesigning Healthcare for our Coming of Age,” was presented as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for the the Health Industry Management Program at Schulich. Other partners in Healthcare Venture Challenge were the OCAD U, VentureLab and MaRS. This year’s event was co-sponsored by ZoomerMedia.

Seymour Schulich Building“I was proud to see how relevant and marketable the health-care industry judges found the product ideas presented by the student teams,” said Brenda Zimmerman, director of the Health Industry Management Program at Schulich. “All of the teams have been encouraged to develop their ideas further and I hope they do, as they address real and growing needs of older Canadians – a topic which is crucial to address as our population ages.”

Winning the Panel’s Pick Award was the pitch for Fulfill, an online marketplace that would connect busy family caregivers with trusted, reliable and culturally sensitive workers. The Fulfill design idea was presented by Schulich MBA students Justin Chopra, a family physician, and Jason Lin, who has a background in mechanical and industrial engineering, along with OCAD U master of design students Nihal Ahmed and Ryan Church.

“Our design idea predominantly targets female caregivers in the ‘Sandwich Generation,’ who are providing care to their children as well as their own parents. Family caregivers, who spend on average 8.9 hours a week on caregiving duties, will play an exceedingly important role in the future,” says Chopra. “As Canadians live longer and with more chronic diseases than ever before, they will require greater assistance for their day-to-day tasks. With hospitals facing greater capacity constraints, more care will also be provided at home, which ultimately makes the role of the family caregiver much more important.”

After the event, the judges encouraged Chopra and Lin to seek out investors to help them launch Fulfil in the marketplace.

The Citizens’ Choice Award for the design idea that attracted the most mock funds “investment” from guests at the competition was Pill-ar™, a medication adherence device that is interactive, easy to use, fun and aesthetically pleasing, while respecting the autonomy of the Zoomer user.

Pill-ar™ was presented bySchulich MBA students Yen Yen Yip and Virginia Walley, an MD, as well as OCAD U master of design student Iyiope Jibodu.

“A number of people asked if Pill-ar™ was going to be ‘more than a school project,’ and commented that they were quite willing to buy it,” says Yip. “This has definitely made our team consider the potential of applying our solution to the market, and we are in the middle of exploring this angle further through some meetings with industry insiders.”

Yip says products such as Pill-ar™ are needed since lack of medication adherence costs the Canadian health-care system between $10 billion and $30 billion annually. “Seniors who are non-adherent to their medications are also at higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and thus are less likely to age in place,” she says.

Working with an OCAD U master of design student partner, Jibodu, allowed the team to expand its research and analytical tools and generate new insights, says Yip. “Iyiope Jibodu also had a very creative and professional sense of aesthetics, which elevated the presentation quality of our work and turned our solution into a marketable brand.”

Judges for the Healthcare Challenge were Jeannette Wang, SVP professional affairs and services, Shoppers Drug Mart; Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons; Grant Tipler, head of life sciences and health services at RBC; and Wendy Campbell, an active retiree and author of Creative Forces Blog.

More about Fulfill

Fulfill is an online marketplace that connects busy, family caregivers with trusted, reliable and culturally sensitive workers. Caregivers can log on to the Fulfill website, select a day and time and a specific caregiving task (common tasks such as transportation, mowing lawns, cooking/cleaning, basic activities of daily living) and then select from a list of Fullfillers (workers) who can carry out that task.

The caregiver can then filter results to select workers on the basis of gender, language, location and user rating. This is especially helpful in a multicultural area like Toronto where not everyone speaks English, for instance. Our service is meant to enhance the caregiving experience by helping busy caregivers when they need a hand.

Fulfillers must pass background checks, undergo training and are fully insured during the time of the service – all of which provides caregivers peace of mind knowing their loved one is in good hands. Fulfillers also make, on average, 25 per cent more per hour than market competitors and are provided with a very flexible work environment.

More about Pill-ar™

Pill-ar™ is a palm-sized interactive medication dispensing device with a satisfying grip and a medication reminder feature designed for self-reliant seniors and other individuals who take multiple medications. It is designed to be easy to use, fun and aesthetically pleasing, while respecting the autonomy of the user.

Pill-ar™ has four drawer compartments to hold different types of medications, each opened by pushing a spring-loaded mechanism on the bottom to gently pop the drawer open to dispense the pill. After the pill is taken, the user is required to turn the crank collar actuator, which informs the device that the pill has been taken.

This product is more than the device alone. It may be integrated with the pharmacy’s electronic medical record system, and may be programmed for access to educational and other personal support tools that help to optimize adherence.

For more information, contact Brenda Zimmerman, director of the Health Industry Management Program, Schulich School of Business, at