With healthcare rarely far from the headlines, the race is on to find solutions that save money, streamline services, and ultimately make care more accessible and cost-effective for patients. Leading the way is an innovative Irish start-up, Wellola, whose founders believe only the sickest of patients should be hospitalised, and that the future of healthcare is preventative, community-based, and supported by digital tools.
Wellola’s SaaS platform aims to revolutionise the way clinics and hospitals communicate with patients. The start-up was co-founded by Sonia Neary in 2017, and supported by Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency. The platform enables a more seamless experience for the patient, and also has the potential to generate significant savings for the healthcare industry, by making it easier to self-manage appointments.
Wellola supports hospitals and clinics to communicate efficiently with patients
Neary, the company’s MD, and co-founder Dr. Greg Martin, have decades of experience in healthcare. Neary herself worked as a physiotherapist in clinical practice for 15 years, gaining unique insights into the needs of patients and practitioners in the digital present.
Nearly half a million outpatient appointments were missed in Ireland alone in 2017 – a significant figure, the financial implications of which are huge.
Neary explains: “Much of this is to do with miscommunication – letters not reaching patients on time, patients not being able to get in contact with clinics via telephone to reschedule and so on. The current system is cumbersome, slow and costly. Ultimately, our aim is to disrupt the way communication and scheduling is done in the healthcare industry and to make it more efficient and streamlined.
“Wellola could offer cost savings of €1 for every appointment letter, bill, receipt or other correspondence that doesn’t need to be posted. Almost €100 is saved for every appointment that is attended to as opposed to missed (as a direct result of the auto-reminder system) or re-filled via our real-time self-scheduling system.”
Wellola currently serves clinics in the allied healthcare space, such as occupational therapists, psychologists, and speech and language therapists, in over 150 clinics in Ireland and the UK. Later this year, it is launching into Italy, and on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) digital marketplace, which is part of the framework for suppliers to the NHS.
Support for innovation
In this fast-moving industry, there’s a keen race to be innovative and ahead of the pack.
“The move towards digitization in the healthcare industry in Europe is palpable, which is great and about time. Current care models are unsustainable; our resources are limited. So what remains for us to do? Digitize and automate our processes where we can, leverage digital tools to enable and support care-giving humans to do what they do best.
“The key is to use a software partner who not only offers a slick communications tool, but also has the necessary endorsements, compliance and safety standards in place. We’ve had huge support from the Enterprise Ireland network in terms of implementing many of these key elements. Getting the right advice and help is key to early traction and growth.”
Recognition from Women Who Tech
The non-profit organisation Women Who Tech selected Wellola from over 250 start-ups as one of ten finalists in the European leg of its HealthTech Challenge.
By 2040, $25 (€23) trillion will be spent annually on healthcare, but only 9.7% of investor funding goes to women-led healthtech start-ups. Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, said: “The reality is that the playing field for women isn’t level when it comes to investor funding, and we intend to tackle this gap head on by providing these founders access to capital, resources, and a top-tier investor network.”
On the same topic, Neary said, “Female entrepreneurs are frequently juggling growing a business and rearing a family in parallel. They often require additional supports in order to realise their vision.”
Wellola’s success demonstrates that an investment in women’s entrepreneurship benefits everyone.