Cork couple tackle lengthy OT waiting lists with tele-health model

A Cork husband and wife have come up with a new healthcare platform to address huge waiting lists for children to receive Occupational Therapy, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Cork couple tackle lengthy OT waiting lists with tele-health model

Seán Ó Tuama and Jess Kennedy of

WITH the school year underway, there is a high demand for occupational therapists (OTs) to support children that need help with speech and language, motor skills, independence, and toileting, to mention just a few areas.

But with waiting lists for OTs growing in both the public and private sectors, families are stressed out and anxious, wondering where they can turn.

Now, a husband and wife team have created a new healthcare platform called Gabadoo. (It gets its name from the ‘gaba’, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps reduce stress.)

Sean Ó Tuama, whose background is in product development, and Jess Kennedy, a private paediatric occupational therapist for ten years, have teamed up to make allied healthcare available for children and young adults. They have 70 OTs on board, with over half coming from the public sector.

Many of these OTs are feeling the pressures of a broken system and are unable to support families, says Sean. But with Gabadoo, which offers a model of tele-health, families can be assessed quickly by OTs who have varying specialities.

“We developed a couple of products and courses that schools use and we ran a pilot recently with the HSE for a motor skills development programme that we created,” says Sean.

“With this programme, families receive a box with activities inside it. Everything is shown through the tele-health model, which is basically video modelling (but it’s not live.)

“How to complete certain tasks is shown such as scissor skills. Jess is on camera showing the skills, using the activities in our product, which is called Octobox.”

Like so many OTs, Jess’s caseload is full and she isn’t seeing any new clients. She has a waiting list of at least 12 months.

“Some families have to wait anything from 18 months up to five years to see an OT and that’s in the private sector as well.”

One of the reasons Sean and Jess created their platform is because “a huge number of the families on waiting lists don’t actually need to be on a waiting list. The parents just need resources and support specific to their child. This can be worked on at home.”

When a parent or guardian goes on to the Gabadoo platform, they create an account and a profile for their child.

“They select an area such as handwriting and make videos and images which they submit. We give guidance to them on how to submit the information.

“When a family submits a review for, say, handwriting skills, they are matched to a therapist with experience of helping with handwriting,” said Sean.

The platform has only been launched in the last few months.

“We’ve had no problem getting therapists. It has all been word-of-mouth. OTs are all looking to be fully flexible and working remotely. This is a way they can do that.”

Jess’s private practice is called ‘My OT and Me’. She still sees children on a day-to-day basis as she works through the waiting list. She supports children all the way up to young adults aged 22 or 23.

“There is a huge gap there. If a child has a diagnosis, they may get support up until they’re 18. Once they’re over 18, a lot of the supports are cut off. The families don’t know where to turn. So we’re trying to solve that issue.”

Sean and Jess have identified a gap. It comprises parents with day-to-day questions who are not on a waiting list and don’t need to be.

“They are looking for ways they can help their child develop their handwriting or speech skills. So, a huge amount of people come onto our platform looking for support. We take a number of families off waiting lists if they can get all the support they need through our platform.

“Recently, one mom, Karen Cotter, who runs a pre-school in Carrigaline, had gone to her GP for her child and was told it would be 18 months before she’d get any support. She wasn’t overly concerned but was looking for strategies. Then she heard about our platform, and got support from it within six hours.”

In some schools, there are OTs.

“In the U.S, you have OTs in every school. If a child is struggling with concentration in school, the therapist will be able to provide them with some strategies. They might not see that child again for six to eight weeks.”

Gabadoo is being launched in the UK in a couple of weeks and later in the U.S, Canada and Australia.

“Our platform is the only solution available globally. We’re doing research with two universities in the U.S around the model of tele-health that we have created. People are interested in the innovation side of it as well.”

The service will move into other allied health areas in the future, using the expertise of dieticians and lactation consultants, for example.

“It’s definitely something that’s needed, particularly for families wondering how they can support their child’s bedtime routine, for example.”

Sean cites an example of a mother who was quoted €650 at a private clinic for an initial consultation “before providing any support. The mother would then have to pay for intervention if it was needed. With our platform, the cost is €39. The child will get support from a relevant OT who’ll provide the family with strategies to help the child. Also, there will be product recommendations from our product partner in Clare.”

The €39 fee is a monthly charge.

“It can be cancelled at any time, depending on the level of support that’s needed.”

The fee can be claimed against health insurance.

For more see www.gabadoo.com

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