Loop+ is a med-tech, social enterprise that’s bringing the latest sensor technology to help wheelchair users monitor their health. It has the potential to improve their quality of life, and reduce the likelihood of the most common complaints of wheelchair users.
Loop+ was born, as all good innovations are, through necessity. Kath Hamilton had watched on as her sister, Clare Conroy, worked tirelessly to help her son Evander who was confined to a wheelchair after a tumour at birth compressed his spinal cord.
While Kath had experience as a digital consultant, neither of the sisters had a hardware of med-tech background. Despite this, they were determined to find a technological solution to the struggles of spending all day in a wheelchair.
He was receiving physical therapy, but what he didn’t have was any feedback from his wheelchair, where he spent the majority of his day, and which can cause a whole range of problems like pressure sores, scoliosis and breathing problems.
“On the one hand we were looking for a solution to track things like his rehabilitation and therapy, but also health issues like pneumonia, scoliosis and tracking his growth.” Clare says.
After developing a hypothesis they were able to prove the potential of a device that would drive behaviour change. The solution was a sensor pad that could be added to any wheelchair, which would send live reports to a mobile device about how the wheelchair user was sitting.
It acts as a positive feedback loop for clinicians to have a view of how patients are using their chair.
“It’s a fitbit for your bum.” Kath says.
The device is a piece of hardware, and the work to build it is very technical, but the positive impacts for those who are using it are very human.
“In the morning, when Avalon gets into her chair, she likes to have loop+ turned on. We open the app, and she likes to make sure she’s positioned correctly. And so for her, it’s actually quite a lot of fun. I love the fact that it gives you so much more autonomy, and security when it comes to your child. That’s major for me.” Explains Kristie Chambers, a parent of a wheelchair user, and a happy customer.
“Having spent the last 10 years with children who can’t even tell you they have an itchy foot, let alone back pain, because they’re not sitting correctly. I think it’s just everything in the world. It’s almost like a voice for them. And an understanding for the carers and the parents. Honestly, hats off. It’s amazing.”
The startup company received early investment from iCare who recognised the potential of applying the technology to their patients.
“Pressure injuries can cost insurers upwards of $100,000 per admission, so diving into those numbers it becomes clear that there’s billions of dollars being spent, and our solution becomes economically viable.” Clare says.
Early on they received a huge boost when they were accepted into the Cicada Innovations accelerator program. They were given mentorship and a small office, and they’ve now evolved to being one of the ecosystem’s core success stories.
“We started off with four people there and a little outer room, but we’ve grown. We were given our own office, and then we knocked down a wall and took next office next to us. It really helps to develop and nurture those early stage companies, so yes Cicada was fantastic” Kath says.
The company has now reached commercialisation stage and after developing its own proprietary hardware and software, they’re selling to customers, with around 10 new customers each week.
“We’re just finalising some distribution partnerships in Australia, New Zealand and America. That’s all about getting the physical device to customers. And then the next step is building the software applications for different kinds of conditions on top of that, and start to apply both the impact from a quality of life perspective, and the cost savings.” Kath says.
They received strong interest in a funding round in 2020, with Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory leading the $3 million round. Other investors include Giant Leap, and a consortium of angel investors through Australian Impact Investments.
Loop+ is one of the impact startups that will be featured at the Impact Connect showcase event on Wednesday 4th August