Ground breaking technology may lower risk of falls in elderly

Trish Dromey talks to Barry Greene whose startup company has pioneered technology that can predict fall risks accurately.

In a world where the number of people over the age of 60 is expected to double to two billion by 2050, Dublin-based startup, Kinesis Health Technologies, has identified multi-million euro opportunities for technology which can be used to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.

“In the US alone it has been estimated that falls by older adults result in costs of $30bn a year,” said Kinesis CTO and co-founder Barry Greene, adding that his company was the first in the world to develop a product which can accurately predict the risk of falls.

It has done so by adding technology to the ‘timed up and go’, a standard test performed to assess risk of falls. Called QTUG (Quantitative Timed Up and Go) the Kinesis medical device uses body-worn sensors and machine-learning software and is designed for use by health professionals.

“It can identify people at risk of falls and also the conditions which might cause them to be at risk such as abnormal gait or muscle weakness,” said Dr Greene, explaining that with appropriate intervention the incidence of falls can be reduced by 30-40%.

Since launching the product in late 2014, Kinesis has worked on developing sales in the UK and the US.

Now entering both the Australian and Israeli markets, it has embarked on a funding round with a view to raising substantial private investment to allow it to scale-up and expand.

“Our goal over the next five to 10 years is to get QTUG accepted as the de facto standard in fall assessment globally,” said Dr Greene.

Set up in 2013 by Dr Greene and CEO Seamus Small at NexusUCD, Kinesis Health Technologies is a spin-out company which uses technology developed during the Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) project at UCD.

Using a commercialisation grant from Enterprise Ireland, the two founders licensed the technology from an Intel subsidiary, Care Innovations, and entered an agreement with sensor technology company Shimmer Sensing.

QTUG, a class I medical device which combines Kinesis software with Shimmer sensors, was launched in late 2014. A distribution deal in the US with Care Innovations meant that the company was able to hit the ground running.

Signing with a distributor in the UK and setting up online sales, the founders focused on direct sales in the UK in 2015, attending trade shows and establishing a relationship with the NHS.

Entering the healthcare market with a totally new product has not been easy, said Dr Greene.

“Healthcare is a very conservative industry and is slower to adopt new technology than other industries — and healthcare budgets are tight.” He believes that Kinesis is now gaining traction though.

In January it was selected as an industry partner in a new NHS initiative called the Innovation Test Bed which will evaluate the use of a range of devices including QTUG.

“We will now be deploying our technology for use in two healthcare systems, North East London and Sheffield,” said Dr Greene.

The main focus has been on selling to NHS community care providers which offer fall prevention services.

“Our product is being used by physios, occupational therapists and in nursing homes and hospitals. Some of our earliest sales were to community care services in Bracknell Forest and Slough.”

The company has recently signed a second distribution deal in the UK, with Solutions4Health.

Kinesis has had a small number of sales in Ireland where the device is used in one orthopaedic hospital and by a few community-based physios and occupational therapists.

The fundraising round is expected to conclude by September, allowing the company to double its staff size to 10 and employ additional business development staff as well as technical staff to work on new products.

“Our main aim, once we get funding, is to target the US — a vast market which is wide open to adopting new technology,” said Dr Greene.

Company: Kinesis Health Technologies

Location: NexusUCD, Dublin

CEO: Seamus Small

Staff: Five Markets: UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Australia

Website: www.kinesis.ie

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