The Roscommon startup bringing nursing homes from pen and paper to the 21st century

Seamus Quinn was running his original company myITdepartment, providing IT hardware support for various companies when he encountered a problem with nursing homes.

He had a number of clients in the nursing home business and many of them were still running old “clunky” software, or even just a pen and paper, for recording notes.

“We were providing essentially the hardware and the hardware support but not the software,” he says.

“We had looked at developing a nursing home platform a couple of years ago but not being a software company, we kind of talked about it but it didn’t really go anywhere.”

That was until two years ago when Quinn met Shino Jose, the managing director of Beacon Labs, a Dublin-based software firm.

Beacon Labs already had experience in the healthcare market, developing retail and point of sale software for pharmacies. It was familiar with the workflows and security features that products in this market needed.

Quinn and Jose felt that they could combine their respective expertise in hardware and software to build a solution for the underserved nursing home market.

“We put our heads together and sat down and came up with a plan and that was essentially the birth of InselCare.”

The platform allows care staff to manage information on resident arrivals, medication updates and health status.

The Roscommon-based company spent about 16 months developing the platform with Jose’s teams in Dublin and India building the core parts of the platform.

‘Difficult to navigate’

According to Quinn, many of the existing software platforms are unnecessarily complex.

“The feedback we were getting was that they were clunky, they were difficult to use, they were difficult to navigate.”

He says that care staff need to be able to access the system quick and easy, from monitoring care modules and medication plans to info on diets and general mood.

Most importantly though is the need for constant availability, he adds.

There are a various systems that are used by nursing homes which rely solely on a cloud-based system, but that can present issues, according to Quinn.

“If the nursing home’s internet connection was down, they had no access to the system at all so that obviously was a problem given that nursing homes are 24/7 operations,” he says.

“Most of them would run off a standard broadband line that wouldn’t be anything fancy in terms of an internet connection so redundancy can be an issue there.”

InselCare employs a hybrid model. The software is accessed via the cloud – InselCare’s data is hosted in IBM data centres in Germany – but the company has built several offline facilities for nursing homes if the broadband connection is knocked off.

“In the event that the nursing home’s internet connection is down, the care module will continue to work for as long as is required and as soon as the internet connection is restored, it just syncs the data back up.”

“That’s where the hybrid element comes into line,” Quinn says.

This removes the need for nursing homes to invest more money in on-site storage hardware.

“The other feedback as well was that the companies that are already in the market don’t provide the hardware support,” he says.

“(Nursing homes) frequently had to come to the likes of us, as in myITdepartment, for their hardware support and someone else for their software support.”

InselCare is currently developing more features, like medicine management, that can be used offline and will launch in the next two to three months.

“Literally, they could lose the internet connection for a week and still continue to work.”

Simplicity
Nursing homes have been lacking a one-stop shop patient management systems, according to Quinn. He adds that the software needs to run in a very stripped down, simple fashion that doesn’t require a huge investment of time to get going.

InselCare’s software runs on a basic tablet carried by care staff into each room. The “hardware can be cheap and cheerful,” he says.

“The care staff aren’t taking notes when they’re in there and going back to a central point, be it a touchscreen device on a wall of a PC in an office, that they can actually enter information as they’re going along.”

Given the sensitive clinical data housed in the system, the company has invested a lot of the development time into security safeguards. All the data is encrypted in transit and at rest, Quinn explains.

“Everything we hold on the hard drive of the device is also encrypted so if the device is lost, stolen, whatever, it’s fully encrypted so there’s no access to the actual information that’s there.”

Irish roll out

InselCare officially launched the platform earlier this month. It was piloted in nursing homes in Roscommon and Wexford initially with the company now seeking a wider roll out across the country.

“We’ve 15 or 20 very interested parties and leads since we launched,” Quinn says.

InselCare charges nursing homes €15 per occupied bed per month rather than a fixed fee.

It takes a monthly average of a nursing homes’ occupancy. If one home has 50 beds but only occupies 40 beds one month and 45 beds the next, it won’t end up paying for empty beds.

The Irish market is on the company’s short-term radar with a UK launch in the pipeline. The UK nursing home market is very similar to Ireland, according to Quinn, just much larger.

“We came across five or six different providers in the UK that would have reasonably large (presence),” he says.

“Obviously there are a lot more nursing homes in the UK compared to here so we’re talking at the moment to investors about how we would fund the expansion into the UK.”

A move into the UK isn’t on the immediate road map as InselCare plans to build up a bigger portfolio of nursing home clients in Ireland for the next 12 to 18 months to prove its business works.

“Two years max would be our expansion timeline for the UK,” says Quinn.

InselCare has a team of just four people in Roscommon but is expanding that to 10. It plans to hire software trainers that can deploy the software in nursing homes and train the staff to use it, as well as sales professionals.

So far the venture has been self-funded “out of our own pockets” by myITdepartment and Beacon Labs, according to Quinn.

“As it grows, we’re targeting a first round of funding for the expansion into the UK because it would need a significant increase in funding,” he says.

“We’re looking at how it progresses in the Irish market and we’ll look to plough all revenues and profits over the next two years back into that goal.”

This article originally appeared on Fora.ie

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