Small Business Column: Aoife Ní Mhuirí, Salaso

Introducing dynamic new technology to the physiotherapist patient relationship, Kerry start up Salaso is gaining traction in the UK market.

It has been the first Irish company to develop technology which allows physios to electronically transmit prescribed exercise programmes to their patients.

This also allows the patient to send feedback to the physio and according to founder Aoife Ní Mhuirí, it is the first product of its type on the international market to have this feature.

Launched on the market in 2013, Salaso now sells to over 300 physiotherapists in Ireland and the UK. Customers include physios and hospitals in Ireland, as well as some large organisations in the UK which include Spire Perform, part of the Spire Healthcare group, Cricket Scotland, the national governing body for the sport, as well as NHS Lanarkshire, and NHS Highland in Scotland.

Ms Ní Mhuirí said that business is growing rapidly in the UK and Salaso is now targeting physio chains, sporting and health care organisations with a view to doubling sales this year.

The Tralee-based company employs five full-time and two part-time staff at present, and plans to grow this to 10 by the end of next year.

A qualified physio with a Masters in Sports Science, Ms Ní Mhuirí was lecturing in Institute of Technology Tralee when she came up with the idea of using technology to improve communications between physio and patient.

“Patients can have problems with written instructions for exercises. There are huge benefits to be had from patients being able to watch a video showing an exercise being done properly.

“It is said that a picture is word a 1,000 words and we say that a video is worth a 1,000 pictures,” says Ms Ní Mhuirí.

Taking leave of absence from her job, she approached the local enterprise board in 2011. Securing some grant aid for the project, she enrolled in the Enterprise Ireland-backed Endeavour accelerator programme and established the company, then called Sports Clinic Plus at the Tom Crean Business Centre in Tralee.

Over the next two years she found a contractor to develop software and worked on creating a library of video exercises.

“We started with 150 videos focusing on the lower body, now we have over 1,500 videos,” says Ms Ní Mhuirí, explaining a video of a specific exercise can be emailed by the physio to the patient, or accessed on an app.

She started testing the product with local physios and by early 2013, was ready to go to market with a minimal viable product targeting physios and the sports market.

In 2013, Ms Mhuiri participated in the Health Box accelerator programme in London, which provided some funding and more importantly helped her build up a network of contacts with physios and sports and health organizations in the UK.

Ms Ní Mhuirí changed the companies name to Salaso in 2013 when she realised this allowed her to improve sales in other areas.

Salaso began by selling at physiotherapy conferences in Ireland and has now licenced its software to over 150 physios here as well as a few hospitals and The Physio Company Ireland which has 27 clinics.

The UK market, which has 50,000 physiotherapists as opposed to 4,000 in Ireland, was always going to be important to the company.

“A key milestone was when the British Olympic Medical Institute licensed the software in the summer of 2013 for use in a rehabilitation and training facility in London and another was when we won our first NHS tender with the Health Innovation Network in South London,’’ says Ms Ní Mhuirí, who opened an office in London last year.

She says that the UK market is more receptive to new technology than Ireland.

“The NHS are looking at an annual funding shortfall of £30bn by 2020 and are changing practices to reduce costs — our technology supports this,” she says explaining that physiotherapists can improve efficiency and capacity and also reduce face to face patient visits by communicating electronically.

The company also sees a place for its technology in health services in remote communities and for providing exercise programmes designed to keep older people fit and healthy.

Business in the UK now accounts for 55% of sales and over the next 12 months, Salaso aims to double sales.

Company: Salaso

Location: Tralee, Co Kerry

CEO:Aoife Ní Mhuirí

Staff: Seven

Business:Develops software for physiotherapists



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