This month we are so pleased to profile Laura Simmons who shares with us her passion and work and lots of great resources. Laura is the CEO and founder of Theratrak (tech startup for Allied Healthcare) and a Paediatric Occupational Therapist. Theratrak was recently named runner up in the Australian healthcare week startup of the year and also NSW start-up of the year for the AIIA.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi, my name is Laura Simmons, and I’m the CEO and founder of Theratrak. I’m also a paediatric occupational therapist. I’ve worked as a private paediatric OT in Sydney for the last eight years, and I founded Theratrak three years ago, partnering with an accelerator here in Sydney called SheStarts. I was frustrated with how behind the digital health scene was in the allied health space and was looking for a solution that would save me time as a clinician and improve outcomes for my clients to graduate therapy with the right tools and faster.
What is Theratrak, and who does it support? Theratrak is a mobile app and web-based platform that supports any allied health professional in creating custom therapy home programs for clients and then tracking their progress from a distance. The app has been co-designed with therapists since the start so that it fits into their workflow. A therapist can send the home program whilst they are in session with their client, and we are in the process of integrating with case management software to save them even more time when writing case notes. The platform has over 200 pre-loaded early intervention activities, and therapists can jump on and customise their library to meet their unique treatment needs. It’s been a really amazing process creating tech and seeing therapists eyes light up when we show them how simple it is. This year we were named runner up in the Australian healthcare week startup of the year and also NSW start-up of the year for the AIIA. Let’s see if in September we can take out the national prize.
How do you define digital health? Digital health, to me, is any way that we can enhance connections, improve communication and inevitably provide better outcomes for clients accessing healthcare services using technology. That might be creating integrated electronic health records or creating ways to share electronic files (rather than faxing!). It might just be a way to communicate differently with other clinicians or people that might not work in your organisation, such as emails and virtual chats. Or on the other side, it might be digital ways to improve productivity using project management tools. Digital health can also be looking at different ways to use technology to help us diagnose and predict and become more refined in our clinical decision making. Finally, it can also be a way to provide better access to professional development and improve access to excellent global resources at a fraction of the cost. I think digital health can be anything where technology and healthcare meet and provide better outcomes to patients and clients or improve work productivity for clinicians.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed? I think many factors contribute to seeing digital health products and innovation success. It’s a complex multi-stakeholder environment, after all. As a technical founder, I’ve focused on looking at the user experience for the clinician and the client. They are the people that are using the technology, and they need to love it and find the tool more accessible and valuable than using a non-technical solution. I believe that we have to bring together people working in the industry with technical experts to build tools that solve real-world problems to build products that people actually need. Whilst also empathising with the clinicians who may have been burned by technology solutions that have, in the past, created more challenging work environments than ease. We also underestimate the benefit of a clinical champion and understanding who exactly pays for your solution. The person who pays might not be the person who ultimately gets the most benefit from the platform, but they also still need to be considered when creating the platform or digital tool
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing digital health at the moment? One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing at the moment is seeing clinicians who’ve done things a certain way for a certain amount of time and who like the way things are done, and they don’t want those things to change because, for them, they work. The problem with this is we have a significant workforce shortage, especially in allied health care, and if we are to keep up with the increasing demand, we need to change the way we provide services, or we will all burn out. We also have a generation of clinicians that have come into healthcare as tech natives who expect technology to be everywhere. Then when they find that the digital health world is very different to the real world, I think they get confused and have started to question why it’s not the same. I believe there also needs to be a considerable focus at university on teaching students about technology and digital health in healthcare so that when they graduate, digital health is the expected norm. We also need to focus on upskilling already practising clinicians on technology solutions and supporting them in an empathetic way about new technology solutions. We need to help these organisations with funding, supporting them with training and supporting them to understand the technology and that it’s not scary.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about? I think there are loads of resources out there, especially regarding technology and health care. You just need to know where to look. Some of my favourites at the moment are:
- Accelerator and digital health-focused programs like Remarkable, Cicada, Blue Chilli, and ANDhealth. Programs that surround you with knowledgeable people in the industry help you build a technology solution that will not just sit in a research lab and never be used by real people. They support you to create the business around the product and the platform, which inevitably helps you help more people at the end of the day.
- Overseas AIMed is an excellent resource for building AI products in the medical space.
- Talking health tech is a great podcast and the talking health tech community is an awesome resource of like-minded individuals all talking about digital health.
- Reimagining healthcare with Health tech X is another awesome Australian podcast.
- I do love the DHIN. They always have fantastic events and resources available to help you network and learn more about the industry and what’s out there.
Helpful links include:
- Blue Chilli
- Talking Health Tech
- Reimagining healthcare – Health tech X podcast
Connect with Laura
Instagram/ Facebook – @theratrak
Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-simmons-a0447a95/
or @Theratrak Pty Ltd