Health system can get on the right track




Limerick firm Tracworx aims to export its patient tracking technology to the UK, writes Trish Dromey.

Innovative technology which uses wi-fi to track patient movement and generate valuable operational data for hospitals has been launched in the UK by Limerick startup Tracworx.

The unique selling point for the technology, according to Tracworx CEO and co-founder Chris Kelly, is the fact that it uses existing wi-fi systems to track patients and doesn’t require expensive infrastructure.

“All other patient tracking technology requires additional infrastructure or modification to existing networks,” he said.

The Tracworx system involves the use of a small wrist-worn device, which tells hospitals where a patient is at any given time.

“It gives data on how long a patient spends at any stage of care, helping to identify where the bottlenecks are. It can be used to facilitate scheduling and planning in order to improve operational efficiency and patient care,” said Mr Kelly.

The technology was launched this summer on the Irish market and is now being used in two Munster hospitals. In September, the three year old startup followed with a launch in the UK where it has just signed its first customer.

“Our aim is to develop sales in the UK and Ireland in 2020 and to enter the US market in 2021,” said Mr Kelly.

The company believes that its technology has the potential to save millions of euros in hospital costs.

“At present, many hospitals are using paper-based systems to record the time spent by patients in each stage of care, which is difficult and labour intensive and doesn’t provide enough accuracy for use in scheduling or planning.”

According to Mr Kelly, current research shows that nursing staff in hospitals are now spending an eighth of their time locating both patients and equipment.

Chris Kelly, Tracworx, which uses wifi to track patient movements.
Chris Kelly, Tracworx, which uses wifi to track patient movements.

When Tracworx was set up in mid-2016,Mr Kelly and co-founders Fionn Barron and Eoin O’Brien had only completed one year of their degree courses at UL.

Having developed an app to locate people indoors, they were approached by Limerick Hospital and asked if it would be possible for them to build an affordable patient tracking system that didn’t require expensive infrastructure.

They did some research before concluding that there were global market opportunities for a company which could get this technology right.

Setting up Tracworx at the Nexus Innovation Centre in UL, Mr Kelly and Mr Barron put their degrees on hold while Mr O’Brien worked on the project while finishing his degree.

In its first year, the company received some grant assistance from Limerick Local Enterprise Office and used it to develop a minimum viable prototype and begin testing it.

“We raised €125,000 to take us to proof of concept which included funding from LEO, competitive start funding from Enterprise Ireland and a bank loan,” said Mr Kelly.

A Munster Regional winner in this year’s Inter TradeIreland Seedcorn competition, Tracworx was initially called Pinpoint Innovations, but has since rebranded.

In preparation for its launch in the summer, Tracworx stepped up a gear, hiring five additional employees, bringing its staff numbers up to nine, and moving to larger premises at Steamboat Quay in Limerick city centre.

“We also began fundraising to take the company to the next level,” said Mr Kelly, who expects to conclude a multimillion fundraising round by the end of the year.

The deployment of Tracworx technology at its first two sites in Ireland is seen as a major milestone for the company which is now in discussions with 10 hospitals in the Liverpool and Manchester area.

“Our goal is to be a market leader in the healthcare segment of real-time location services, an aggressively growing market which is expected to be worth $3bn (€2.7bn) alone by 2023,” said Mr Kelly.

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