Occupational therapist Laura Simmons scoops prestigious award for innovation.
An AI driven app, designed to support therapists and clinicians, won the coveted 2019 Shark Tank Innovator award at AIMed Australia in Sydney.
Theratrak is a mobile app and web platform that supports allied health clinicians to use a multi-disciplinary approach to develop custom therapy home programs for their clients and oversee their progress from a distance.
Theratrak founder and CEO, Laura Simmons said, “To receive this coveted award less than a year after Theratrak’s launch marks a great milestone in our journey. We are addressing a double-sided problem; clinicians are burning out and are overloaded with administration tasks while patients have low adherence to treatment plans due to current low- tech solutions. Theratrak solves these problems by creating a technology solution that works with a clinician’s workflow to reduce the burden of administration while creating an engaging platform to increase patient adherence to treatment and reduce the economic burden of healthcare.”
The idea for Theratrak came to Simmons, a Sydney-based pediatric occupational therapist, after she encountered frustrations at work. But it only really took off after she received specialist help in developing her idea. “In Australia, we have this amazing early stage accelerator program for female founders called ‘SheStarts’,” says Simmons. “It’s aimed at those who have deep industry knowledge and want to solve a global problem; but no technology background. I applied and received tremendous support from a stellar team of technology frontiers, developers, UX and UI designers.”
Theratrak is a digital platform that allows allied health professionals to curate customized therapy programs through videos and photos and track their client’s progress from a distance. They use ‘recipe cards’ detailing tasks that need to be completed by their clients (usually minors) and customise this with videos of tasks that clients have learned or performed during the session so when the clients are at home, they (or their caregivers) can review the videos and be reminded of exactly what needs to be done, or practice accurately. These tools can be used to better manage the individual needs of each client. According to Simmons, occupational therapy often involves many functional movements: learning how to throw and catch, being able to join in play with friends, or practicing handwriting to be better able to manage school tasks. However, research suggests the minute a client leaves the practitioner, they tend to forget 40-80% of what they’ve been told. This reduces their ability to make the most out of each treatment session and follow through with therapy recommendations at home.
Although Theratrak is actively growing, Laura Simmons has already drafted a plan to incorporate artificial intelligence and other new technologies, to better assist both allied health professionals and their patients. Simmons believes as the number of users increase, Theratrak will be able to create a dataset of activities that work for different types of clients and their unique needs. With that data, she wants to take the app to the next level, and develop predictive treatment strategies.
Simmons also plans to use cognitive computing; voice recognition, and natural language processing (NLP) to turn image and speech into text, creating medical notes from images taken in session by therapists for more efficient and accurate reporting. “We have two big goals,” explains Simmons. “One is to improve the outcomes of our patients, the other is to help therapists offload their administrative burden, a major cause of burnout and job dissatisfaction. Our technology can support their workflow, allowing them to work more productively.”
Already Simmons has had interest from therapists outside Australia and is confident of securing investment which would enable her to launch into the US and European markets. However, as materials made available on the platform involve minors and individuals with disabilities, Theratrak faces challenges ranging from privacy protection to establishing trust among new users.
“We do a lot of training around privacy,” assures Simmons. “The benefit of me being a therapist and not a technologist is that I know how sensitive client data is. So, we engaged a strong legal team and we also use encrypted cloud software which is secure and adheres to all major global regulations. The way it works is that therapists only retain the medical records and notes, while all the photos and videos are sent to the clients. At the end of the day, it’s the client’s data so the clients themselves should be the ones that control that data.”