In the fifth of our Meet the Innovator series, we meet Caz Icke, who is a specialist neurophysiotherapist and the developer/Director of SoleSense – a rehabilitation solution for patients with neurological conditions affecting balance and walking. In this blog she talks about her hopes to help patients, clinicians and the NHS, and how the West of England AHSN has helped her on her way.
Tell us about SoleSense
SoleSense is a digital rehabilitation platform designed to assist patients to rehabilitate more quickly after stroke and other neurological injuries. It utilises sensory insoles to provide biofeedback that helps patients perform better independent exercise. It delivers performance feedback and activity monitoring over time that motivates patients to do more, and can be used collaboratively by both patient and therapist. It’s unique in that it can be tailored for those at the very start of their journey, who are not necessarily able to walk on their own yet.
Why did you design SoleSense?
As a neurophysiotherapist I wanted to create a solution to address the need for therapy provision in the UK health care system. Patients can spend months in hospital but only receive three or four hours of therapy a week, which is very little! One of the main priorities for a patient is to regain their balance and walking function as quickly as possible, but get so little time with physio’s to practice this.
Completing independent exercises regularly and learning how to self-manage is a key area in rehabilitation, but could be augmented with digital feedback that improves the quality of movement.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I work clinically three days a week at the Frenchay Brain Injury Unit and work on SoleSense for the other days a week. Some days I fit both in, with a full clinical day and then meetings or webinars or online training 6-10pm. SoleSense days are either spent in lots of Zoom meetings, writing various applications or sending a plethora of emails to developers, academics, engineers or other contacts that can help me push this forward. I like to squeeze some climbing in during the evenings each week – it resets everything so nicely for me to have time away from the laptop!
Working with the AHSN
The West of England AHSN has been very helpful throughout my journey. I attended its Health Innovator Programme, which gave me a crash course in business and taught me how to pitch into the NHS. This opened doors to a partnership with a Senior Research and Innovation Director in the NHS, which has really helped to move things forwards. The AHSN also assisted me with writing a grant application for the Women in Innovation awards – providing valuable feedback and guidance – and with their help, I was successful in winning this award! Prior to receiving this support, I found writing grant applications and sourcing funding very difficult.
Winning one of the Women in Innovation awards has been a massive highlight for me. This is something I never expected, but feel super proud of as it was hard work and really took me out of my comfort zone. It has catalysed everything and provided great support for me as an individual as well as for the business. Since then the West of England AHSN has continued to prompt me and give me opportunities to share my journey.
What do you love about your work?
Learning so much every day! This is a whole new ball game for me and it is a steep learning curve. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes not, but the learning that comes is key and that’s what drives the feeling of excitement and growth. I love clinical work, and will keep this going as much as I can, but the best part of this job is knowing there is a big cause at the heart of it and that you can effect a change for many more people by pushing the boundaries of what you think is possible. Always moving towards achieving your potential gives a good deal of satisfaction – even if it is not always comfortable.
Hopes for the future?
I hope that this project will be able to provide many, many patients globally to take control of their rehabilitation and get back to independence more quickly. I hope that the business will provide benefit to the NHS, cut costs and support clinicians as well as patients.
I hope we can gather lots of big data that enables us to cut falls risk and I hope there can be lasting change that supports people right into old age.
Advice for budding innovators
Find support early on – talk to people! It’s amazing what you can do with the help of others.
When it feels overwhelming, keep it to one step at a time. Trust the flow of things.
Keep taking action, even just small actions each day will move things forwards. I have made the mistake of thinking too much rather than doing.
If, like Caz, you are a healthcare innovator looking for business development support and tools, do get in touch with us at the West of England AHSN. We can help. You can visit our Innovation Exchange for expert advice, information about funding opportunities and to make contact with our team to access support.
Posted on May 19, 2021 by Caz Icke, Director SoleSense