A device designed for the 1 in 3 women worldwide who will have pelvic health problems has won the 2021 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge.
In making her winning pitch, the product’s inventor, Rachel Bartholomew, CEO of Hyivy Health, spoke about her own personal health challenges.
Bartholomew had already dealt with a series of pelvic issues in her life when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2019 at age 28. As she was recovering from surgery and radiation, she connected with other women facing similar challenges with cancer aftercare, including the reality that pelvic problems would have a long-term impact on their health. It inspired Bartholomew to launch Hyivy Health and create a new form of pelvic rehabilitation.
An estimated 50 million women in North America alone are dealing with problems such as pelvic organ prolapse or scar tissue after cancer surgery, conditions that often also lead to incontinence and other symptoms that have a serious and long-lasting impact on quality of life. The risk of pelvic floor complications increases with age.
Bartholomew said static dilators are the only option currently available for home treatment of pelvic health problems, a device which she described as ineffective, painful and not substantially updated since 1938. “Women deserve better,” she told a panel of expert judges.
Her startup’s solution is an ‘intelligent’ multi-purpose vaginal wand that has multiple sensors and could not only provide therapy at home, but also deliver ongoing data for both the woman and her health care providers, allowing clinicians to monitor the progress of the treatment and also detect other looming complications.
In testing to date, Bartholomew said that the treatment program decreases vaginal dryness, pelvic pain and vaginal scarring, while improving symptoms of incontinence.
The Hamilton-based startup has a growing waiting list of more than 400 women who have expressed an interest in the product. A clinical study at McMaster University involving women with endometriosis is set to begin in the spring of 2022.
“Our goal is to have an end to end integrated health solution that empowers doctors with data and allows patients to continue therapy outside of the therapist’s office,” said Bartholomew, who won $25,000 in cash plus in-kind prizes.
Winning the AGE WELL National Impact Challenge means that Hyivy Health will now be able to expedite its research and trials on menopausal women and the effects of aging on their pelvic health, Bartholomew said after the competition.
“Our goal is to provide a unique solution partnered with detailed research to help women overcome these complications and the impact they have on their quality of life as they age.”
Six finalists took part in the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, held virtually on October 7, describing how their technology-based solutions could positively impact older Canadians or their caregivers.
The runner-up prize went to ImaginAble Solutions, led by Lianna Genovese, a McMaster University student. Her pitch was for a device called Guided Hands™, which assists people living with limited mobility to write, paint, draw and use a touch-screen device. Genovese’s startup won a cash prize of $10,000. ImaginAble Solutions also received an intellectual property services prize from Bereskin & Parr.
“All six of the finalists had tremendous pitches and they were drawn from the largest number of submissions we’ve ever received for the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge,” said Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Scientific Director and CEO of AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network. “It shows the vibrancy of the Canadian AgeTech sector, which is growing and offering solutions that support healthy aging, while bringing economic benefits.
AGE-WELL thanks the key sponsors of the 2021 AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge: the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) and the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), and Bereskin & Parr for its sponsorship and for the intellectual property services prize.
For more information about the finalists and the competition, visit: https://agetechinnovationweek.com/national-impact-challenge/
For more information about Hyivy Health, visit: https://hyivy.com/
Written by Sean Mallen, a Toronto-based writer and communications consultant.