Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. It affects around 10 million people worldwide and around 12,000 Irish people live with this disease which can lead to mobility problems and balance disorders. Ninety percent of those affected also experience difficulty with their voice and this is the problem addressed by Teleatherapy, an app-based service developed by speech therapist Clare Meskill to give patients early access to health care. vital voice therapy. Early interventions have been shown to help maintain the voice of people with Parkinson’s disease for up to two more years.
“Teletherapy allows patients to practice their voice therapy at home, which means they can access clinically-supervised therapy without the wait times associated with the public health system and the high cost of a referral. private, ”says Meskill. “Patients receive reminder texts and emails and a clinician will contact them if they haven’t practiced for a few days. Currently, there is no technological solution that provides clinicians with real-time feedback when a person is performing their voice therapy at home. Teletherapy fills this gap while reassuring patients that their progress is monitored by a professional.
For now, Teleatherapy will provide oversight oversight. However, once the app reaches its final version, it will be made available to the wider speech-language pathology community for use with their patients.
Meskill, born in Waterford, created Teleatherapy in October 2020 and launched the app in July this year. A pilot is underway with the Galway and Mayo members of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. People who want to access the app, which works as a SaaS revenue model on a monthly basis, can register their interest on the company’s website.
“My interest in Parkinson’s disease was first sparked during a clinical internship at university when I saw first-hand the impact and improvement of voice therapy on a patient’s life,” explains Meskill. “I also volunteer with the Cork Parkinson Choir and talking to people there I knew voice therapy was not always readily available due to public waiting lists and the cost of private. It got me thinking about a technological solution that would allow patients to access therapy from their homes while being monitored by a clinician.
As many entrepreneurs before Meskill discovered, the cost of developing an application can increase. But Meskill says one of the perks of being on a budget is that it focuses the mind. “If you don’t have a lot of money, you have to get inventive,” she says. “You also learn very quickly that you have to prioritize, especially in relation to the features you decide to include. It might be nice to have a particular feature, but at this point the most relevant question is, do people want and need it? “
The investment in the business to date has been around € 90,000 between private funding and support from Cork City Leo and innovation vouchers from Enterprise Ireland, which has enabled Meskill to work with the Nimbus Center of the Technological University of Munster to develop its product. Meskill, who is one of the latest generation of young graduate entrepreneurs to participate in UCC’s 12-month IGNITE incubation program, is now looking to raise € 250,000 to complete the product and start building his team.
“My goal with teletherapy is to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease and allow them to communicate and use their voice for as long as possible,” says Meskill. “A lady whose voice had started to weaken since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease found that just three weeks after using the app, her voice had become much louder. This is why we are creating this service – to allow people with Parkinson’s disease to continue to communicate with their loved ones.
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