Dragging healthcare communications out of the 80s timewarp
NIALL Rafferty had a comfortable job as a radiographer, but gave it all up alongside business partner Ruth Kenny to found a medical technology company. His start-up Medxnote aims to revolutionise the methods through which medical teams communicate, which 37-year-old Galway man Niall says is currently stuck in the 1980s.
He spoke to Sarah McCabe.
"I worked as a radiographer for 15 years before this so I know hospitals inside out, and healthcare is still stuck in the '80s. So many records are still kept on paper or on obsolete technology like CD-roms. Hospitals have rooms full of medical records whereas other industries now store everything online.
Communication channels are also outdated in hospitals – doctors still have pagers, and hospitals have internal post systems. This is ridiculous when you realise how important communication is for medical staff.
I realised something had to be done and took my ideas to a Google start-up weekend, where I met my co-founder Ruth. I have the medical background needed while, as a qualified accountant, she has the business background. Her experience in auditing is particularly helpful because there are rigorous regulations surrounding medical information. Everything must be secure and kept in a form that will last.
Our first product addresses the outdated pager system. Everyone carries a smartphone now, so our software uses that instead. It allows users to send out automatic messages showing they have received a message and are acting on it, and also has a GPS function.
This allows nurses, for example, to identify whether the doctor they are messaging is actually in the hospital or not. Increased focus on doctors' working hours means it is more important than ever that their home time is protected.
We are currently enrolled in the NDRC Start-Up Launchpad programme. This takes a business from idea to investor-ready in 14 weeks, and provided us with some mirco-finance to keep us going. Our big goal is an upcoming investor day, where we will pitch to public and private investors like seed capital fund Delta.
We are not limiting ourselves to this one system. There are so many aspects of healthcare data storage and communication that need to be modernised.
Everything is progressing really well. St James's Hospital in Dublin has agreed to allow us test our product there and we recently pitched our idea at the Dublin Web Summit, where we were shortlisted for an award. The business will be based in Dublin and ideally we would like to work in the Silicon Docks area where Google et al are based.
For me, the biggest challenge in getting the business up and running was taking a leap of faith and quitting my job to devote myself to this full time. I had a secure state job in a good industry and Ruth was the same, with a good job with KMPG.
We both took a real risk by leaving. It's easy to do that when you are 22, with no mortgage or responsibilities, but totally different when you are older or supporting a family. But that has also provided me with the drive to make this work.