Ideas that help physio thrive
A hit at the 2019 APA conference, the Physiotherapy Research Foundation (PRF) Physio Pitchfest returns as part of THRIVE 2021 in October.
The inaugural Pitchfest winner, Brodwen McBain, has a few pearls of wisdom for prospective applicants of this year’s Physiotherapy Research Foundation-sponsored event Picthfest - make every word count and take time to prepare.
Brodwen, APAM, won for her dynamic splint The Pronosupinator, a treatment method to improve the range of rotation following traumatic elbow, forearm and wrist injuries.
Physio Pitchfest fosters innovation to transform physiotherapy practice and improve patient wellbeing.
The splint is already making an impact on the profession and patient outcomes globally.
‘It benefits the treating clinician through being an effective, accessible and efficient solution, regardless of splinting experience,’ she says.
Judges said Brodwen and co-designer Jeff Sanderson won because they understood their target market and had a clear understanding of competitors and how to position their product for sale.
The $15,000 funding prize has enabled them to continue development of the splint and make it accessible to more people to achieve optimal outcomes following injury.
They’ve secured international patents and refined the manufacturing process.
‘We had a provisional patent in Australia already (before applying), but in order to start to provide the device overseas, we needed that international patent. It took up the majority of the prize money. Without this award, we wouldn’t have been able to move forward as confidently.’
Market research has also continued, with the splint renamed as One-80° Pronosupinator to improve product recognition and consumer recall.
‘We found that people had difficulty remembering and saying pronosupinator, so we’ve changed it to the One-80° Pronosupinator; that way people just have to remember the “One-80”.’
The splint is made of a hinged aluminium frame, soft arm cuff, wrist wrap and elastic straps.
It holds the forearm at a passive stretch in either forearm supination or pronation and enables the wearer to move out of position for short bursts of movement, before returning their limb to end-of-range upon relaxation.
The cumulative time spent in a stretched position allows for long-lasting changes and is effective even when other therapies have failed.
Competitor products either lock the elbow at 90 degrees or restrict movement of the hand entirely.
The win, says Brodwen, shows physiotherapists don’t need a completely new idea in order to apply.
‘Wearable therapy that provides a stretch isn’t an innovative idea in itself. What we did was consider how we could innovate to make a splint more functional and comfortable to wear. It was thinking outside the box and taking a product to a new level.
‘Since winning, we’ve continued to refine the design and change the sizing to be more versatile so one size will fit more people. We’ve also introduced a paediatric size.’
The splint is registered in the UK and Europe, with the designers navigating COVID-19 restrictions to provide the product internationally.
‘COVID has impacted delivery significantly and will continue to impact overseas into the foreseeable future, but we will continue to look at other markets and expand.’
Innovation, she says, is second nature to physiotherapists, and Brodwen encourages her peers to apply this year.
‘We innovate on a small scale all the time. We might adapt an exercise for one individual to meet their needs, or adapt a piece of equipment or an environment to suit someone else.
There’s a level of innovation that happens without people even realising that they’re doing it. But when you are doing it on a bigger scale, one of the challenges is taking that next step. It takes time.’
Brodwen says time was essential to preparing for Pitchfest, yet adds she was initially in ‘two minds’ about applying.
‘We were aware that we’d have to put some time into preparing it… but we thought let’s apply anyway—if it doesn’t go any further then that’s fine.’
When named a finalist she then wrote and refined a three-minute script to pitch her idea and marketing proposal.
‘It’s a skill in itself, and it’s a presentation I’d never done before. But I discovered that I love the process of trying to get as much information across with as much clarity as possible in such a short timeframe.’
She also learned other skills, such as video production.
‘The initial round required applicants to create a short video application…I was actually proud that we managed to do that to the level that we did, having never done that before.’
A desire to have ‘meaningful and varied work’ in health led Brodwen to physiotherapy and hand therapy.
‘It’s a career that offers a combination of working with people, problem solving and providing a solution for people.
'As a junior physiotherapist I was lucky to be in a hospital that had a hand therapy rotation. I really enjoyed it,’ she says.
‘It was practical, you got to do things in hand therapy that you didn’t get to do in other areas in terms of fabricating splints, and wound care and managing complex injuries.
'It’s quite varied as well—you get to work with people following trauma all the way through to arthritis, and across all age groups.’
Brodwen graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) from Monash University in 2009. She has nine years’ experience in hand therapy, and started Upper Limb Co (she and Jeff are co- directors) in 2018.
She works clinically across public, private and university settings, managing a varied upper limb caseload.
Brodwen has a special interest and expertise in treating de Quervain’s syndrome (a tendon condition that affects the thumb and wrist), which is the subject of her PhD candidacy at La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre.
She is excited to see what the 2021 cohort of applicants bring to Physio Pitchfest, and encourages them to be confident and passionate in pursuing their idea.
‘You will be nervous and excited at the same time, but it will be worth it—you never know where your idea may take you.’
- Brodwen’s Physio Pitchfest tips
- It’s a pitch, so make sure you’re hitting the brief. Tick off as many of the key points the judges are looking for as possible, making sure to highlight what you’ve achieved so far.
- Rehearse. Keep refining and ensure each word matters.
- Share your pitch presentation with people within and outside of the profession to make sure
- what you’re saying is actually clear and understandable.
- It’s okay to be nervous but if you prepare well, be confident in your ability to deliver well.
- Remember, you are not alone. Others will also be outside their comfort zone. Know you will have support from the PRF through the entire process.
- Apply and enjoy the Pitchfest process. Take the opportunity to share your idea.
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