Know­ing when to change di­rec­tion can be vi­tal start­ing out

Wel­lola adapted their busi­ness por­tal to fit the men­tal health­care sec­tor

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS INNOVATION - Olive Keogh

Wel­lola is a busi­ness-to-busi­ness com­mu­ni­ca­tions por­tal fo­cused on the men­tal health­care sec­tor.

Its Soft­ware as a ser­vice (Saas) prod­uct has been in de­vel­op­ment since 2014 and ac­tu­ally started out as a book­ing sys­tem for phys­io­ther­a­pists.

How­ever, com­pany founders So­nia Neary and Dr Greg Martin quickly re­alised that the big­gest need for their so­lu­tion was in men­tal health­care and a smartly ex­e­cuted pivot has seen the com­pany de­velop a video con­sul­ta­tion and se­cure mes­sag­ing prod­uct aimed at psy­chi­a­trists, psy­chol­o­gists, coun­sel­lors and psy­chother­a­pists who would like to of­fer their clients the op­tion of blend­ing face-to-face and on­line ther­apy.

‘Video con­sul­ta­tion’

“Wel­lola is unique in that pa­tients can book ei­ther video con­sul­ta­tion or in-house care de­pend­ing on avail­abil­ity and we are one of the few providers of­fer­ing a so­lu­tion to small and medium en­ter­prises look­ing to com­pete with the big­ger on­line con­sul­ta­tion ser­vice providers,” says So­nia Neary.

“We soft launched ap­prox­i­mately 12 months ago with a very loose it­er­a­tion of the soft­ware. We then went out and spoke with over 850 clin­ics across Ire­land and built our plat­form based on their feed­back.

“It was in­ter­est­ing to dis­cover that their idea of what they needed was dif­fer­ent to what we had imag­ined. We of­fi­cially launched in June this year and our go-to-mar­ket strat­egy has been about lev­er­ag­ing our med­i­cal net­work and iden­ti­fy­ing and pair­ing with ap­pro­pri­ate part­ners to get our prod­uct into the hands of those who need it en masse.”

The com­pany’s se­cure pa­tient por­tal in­cludes an on­line reser­va­tions sys­tem for on­line ther­apy, video con­sul­ta­tion with no third-party down­loads, in­te­grated pay­ment and e-in­voic­ing, and mes­sag­ing that’s com­pli­ant with the EU’s GDPR data pri­vacy reg­u­la­tions. It also of­fers a tele­phar­macy com­po­nent.

“The ben­e­fits of on­line con­sul­ta­tion sys­tems in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors are sig­nif­i­cant,” says Neary.

“It can im­prove ef­fi­ciency, as­sist with max­imis­ing avail­able re­sources, fa­cil­i­tate the re­duc­tion of wait­ing lists, and in­crease reach to re­mote, un­der­ser­viced ar­eas.

“One in ten adults in Ire­land has a men­tal health dif­fi­culty at any given time while al­most 20 per cent of young peo­ple aged 19-24, and 15 per cent of chil­dren aged 11-13 years, have ex­pe­ri­enced a di­ag­nos­able men­tal health dis­or­der at some point in their lives.

“In May of this year over 6,500 chil­dren and young peo­ple were wait­ing for their first ap­point­ment. Some clin­ics have started to use Face­time, Skype or Zoom but have found they can be a bit un­safe, un­pro­fes­sional and clunky to use.

“They are also miss­ing the seam­less link from book­ing through to treat­ment and pay­ment which Wel­lola pro­vides. Our sys­tem is very user-friendly and can eas­ily be used those who are not tech savvy.”

Wel­lola’s team of four is led by Neary, who is a phys­io­ther­a­pist with 15 years clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence in re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in both HSE and pri­vate clinic set­tings. Co-founder Greg Martin is a doc­tor and health­care en­tre­pre­neur with an MBA in pub­lic health. The com­pany’s CTO is Criostóir O’Cod­latáin Lachtna.

‘In-house com­pe­tence’

“Greg and I knew what we wanted the sys­tem to do and ini­tially out­sourced the de­vel­op­ment. But it’s ex­pen­sive and slow and you can’t be a tech firm with­out in-house com­pe­tence,” Neary says.

“I met Criostóir, who is a full stack de­vel­oper, on the New Fron­tiers pro­gramme and hav­ing him on board has been in­valu­able. We had to tweak things in var­i­ous ways in­clud­ing mak­ing sure we com­plied with the new GDPR reg­u­la­tions for ex­am­ple.”

The com­pany now has more than 150 clients and is rev­enue gen­er­at­ing. It charges on a sub­scrip­tion ba­sis and also takes a small com­mis­sion on pay­ments and e-in­voic­ing.

De­vel­op­ment costs have been in the or­der of €150,000 and the ven­ture has been sup­ported by the South Dublin LEO and En­ter­prise Ire­land un­der its HPSU pro­gramme.

Wel­lola is cur­rently fundrais­ing and is look­ing for in­vest­ment of around €250,000 to bring the com­pany to the next stage and into the UK.

‘‘ We then went out and spoke with over 850 clin­ics across Ire­land and built our plat­form based on their feed­back

Wel­lola co-founder So­nia Neary says the sys­tem ‘can eas­ily be used those who are not tech savvy’

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