A rural digital journey

  • Physio treatment in practice – Tamworth
    Physio treatment in practice – Tamworth.
  • Armidale NSW - Pilates floor classes in the physio clinic.
    Armidale NSW - Pilates floor classes in the physio clinic.
  • Katherine NT - Flying to Indigenous communities small aircraft on desert runway.
    Katherine NT - Flying to Indigenous communities.

Deborah Hunter, a dedicated physiotherapist, has devoted her career to serving rural Australia, with 11 years in Katherine, NT, and 18 years in Armidale and Tamworth, NSW. Throughout her time in these communities, Hunter has encountered common challenges: limited allied health services reach, patients with preventable primary healthcare issues, and the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain allied health professionals.

Recognizing the digital proficiency of her aging patient demographic and the expanding realm of telehealth, Hunter identified a need for a health platform that could offer extensive access to preventive primary healthcare services. To achieve this, she joined forces with her sister, Professor Sandra Hunter, an academic with expertise in exercise's impact on aging, pain modulation, and chronic disease management, including diabetes. Together, they embarked on the development of a digital allied health application designed to provide tailored exercise programs, educational content, and online telehealth consultations.

With no prior experience in the digital health sphere, the Hunters faced a steep learning curve. They tapped into a supportive community within the University of New England's Smart Regional Incubator, thanks to the Emerge 2020 initiative. This collective effort led to partnerships with app developers to create the envisioned platform and marketing strategists to establish a brand and online presence.

After a prolonged process of creation and refinement, the Hunters launched a prototype web app in 2021. They soon recognized the necessity for a mobile application, prompting a return to the development phase. By December 2023, after selling two physiotherapy practices to fully commit to the project, Deborah Hunter successfully introduced SimpliMove.health, a comprehensive web and mobile app platform.

The adoption of digital technology by SimpliMove.health aims to enhance the delivery of preventative primary care health services, especially for rural and regional Australians. The platform's digital nature facilitates the employment of health professionals across Australia, regardless of geographical constraints.

In collaboration with the University of South Australia, the Hunter sisters are exploring various care models to increase preventive primary allied healthcare services' accessibility. However, they face the significant task of securing additional funding to further develop and evolve the app, with aspirations to incorporate a broader range of allied health services.

The journey, stretching over four years, has been laden with valuable insights. Developing digital health solutions from scratch is not only costly but also time-consuming. Yet, the potential to significantly enhance primary healthcare accessibility for rural and remote Australians outweighs these challenges. As they move into a new phase of development, the Hunter sisters remain committed and optimistic about their digital health endeavor, ready to embrace the future of rural healthcare innovation.

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