Five Questions and an Elevator Pitch: Team NiQ
1. What is the need that NiQ seeks to address?
Meilin: We are developing an app for parents whose babies stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU. We want this app to help them smooth the transition between the NICU and going home. Taking care of a new baby is stressful and especially so if that baby has a very complicated medical condition. Our app will help parents to feel more confident and more supported at home.
2. How does your solution work?
Meilin: Parents need some education before they can go home. The gold standard is that the nurse or the doctor would give them a discharge instruction before they go home. But sometimes those parents have stayed in the NICU for like a hundred days and it' hard to take in all that information.
Some new issues or questions will come up when they go home no matter how well they prepared in the hospital. Our app would provide more customized education material for them and they can refer to this app anytime they have a problem. And we could customize the account and to the level where if they have a specific type of ventilator, for example, we could provide the exact information on how to use it.
NiQ also includes tools and activities to help parents coordinate with different caregivers and provides a place to take notes. If parents can have all these in one place, they don't need to feel anxious about losing things.
3. What motivated you to take on the project? And what activities have you undertaken?
Meilin: As someone in the healthcare field, I wanted to work on a need that is not super visible to the general public. If you are working on diabetes or depression, that space is more crowded in that sense. But as someone inside healthcare, we can see there's a need for solutions to help smaller populations—like parents taking their babies home from the NICU.
Aarushi: When looking at digital health, I think it's easier look at it as telehealth so when Meilin sent out an email blast about this project, I thought it was a really cool project and was interested in serving populations that aren't having their needs met.
4. What’s the most important thing you learned in advancing your project?
Meilin: Building a team is hard because, for all students, we have plans for our career and with academics so time is really valuable. We have to plan ahead of time and be mindful of other responsibilities to keep this project moving.
Also, getting people with different talents is important. In the class, we started with three medical students on the same team. I was fortunate to have Aarushi join to work on the design side to compliment my skill set. With the funding we received from NEXT, we hired contractors working for us.
5. What advice do you have for aspiring health technology innovators?
Meilin: Embrace uncertainty, go with the flow. What you're expecting to be the right answer might not actually be the right answer so keep talking to people that you're trying to serve and talk to your mentors.
A good need or good solution is not enough. There is the insurance reimbursement, regulatory approval and patents. You have to navigate a lot of things at the same time and any of the links could stop you from going anywhere. But know that this is a very rewarding space to work in. We are trying to build a product that may be profitable at some point, but when we talk to people, they don't think “Oh, you are trying to make money from us.” It is quite the opposite. They say, “You are doing something to help us.”
Original team members: Meilin Dong, Aarushi Patil, Shuvi Jha
Course: Biodesign for Digital Health
Biodesign NEXT Funding: Awarded for winter and spring quarters 2022