A collaboration uniting health care and technology more than a year in the making is on the cusp of launching for The Arc of the Ozarks.
The nonprofit, which serves individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, is set to launch a remote support monitoring system Aug. 1 to aid six clients in a trio of Springfield homes. The program utilizes technology from Springfield-based Hearo Technologies LLC that increases client care in the home by decreasing the need for direct support professionals to be present in person.
“There’s many that I would say could utilize more independence if we had a venue for doing that,” said Tim Dygon, executive vice president of The Arc of the Ozarks. “They don’t typically need the staff there all the time.”
The remote monitoring system provides clients with medication reminders, safety sensors on doors and windows, and remote communication with the nonprofit’s staff.
“I just saw an opportunity for us to do something different,” said Dygon, who approached friend Jim Carr about the idea around two years ago.
That conversation spurred Carr to form Hearo Technologies in 2018. Carr serves as CEO for the four-employee health care technology startup, which develops hardware, software and services for those receiving in-home care and the provider agencies that serve them.
Carr said he had firsthand experience with in-home care for a loved one, which was an additional motivator.
“Tim was describing the issues his industry was facing, such as finding enough direct support professionals,” Carr said of ongoing staff shortages at The Arc of the Ozarks. “It just kind of clicked that the solution he was looking for was something that we could offer. That would help solve the problem for someone like myself from being the one trying to take care of a loved one.”
Dygon said remote support technology exists, but it’s typically monitored and staffed by a third party, where a provider such as The Arc of the Ozarks – one of 800 such agencies in Missouri – is out of the loop unless there’s a client emergency.
“So what we do now is we take that platform and do what we do best, and that’s staffing,” he said. “We still provide the services.”
Carr said Hearo Technologies’ pilot project with the nonprofit started in January 2019 and involved an arduous application process with the Missouri Department of Mental Health. One of the documents completed was 138 pages long, he said. But 11 months later, approval was in hand and the company signed a 12-month labor contract with the state. The agreement covers $9,000 per year for the software, he said, and because of the state contract, Arc of the Ozarks has no financial investment for the technology.
“It was a long road and that’s not surprising in this field,” Dygon said.
Starting the startup
Hearo Technologies had an initial seed investment of $150,000, with Carr, Jason Arend and Myke Bates as the company’s primary investors. The three since have raised another $600,000 in capital through family and friends, Carr said. That additional capital was necessary while so much time was devoted to securing the state contract, he said. As a result, the company didn’t earn any revenue last year.
Arend and Bates have worked together on voice and video technology startup Eagle Speak LLC, which they founded in 2015 and sold to Hearo Technologies in January 2019 for undisclosed terms, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Carr also was an investor in Eagle Speak, but he had no ownership in the company. Arend left Hearo Technologies in June to focus more on his role with the Mid-America Technology Alliance nonprofit. Arend currently is board president for the agency, which connects technology groups and resources to help attract and retain talent and promote tech careers. He maintains an undisclosed stake in Hearo Technologies.
The first paying customers for Hearo Technologies came on board this year, as the company sold software for its remote monitoring system to Liberty-based Life Unlimited Inc. and Joplin-based Parity Services LLC. Like Arc of the Ozarks, both are disability services and support organizations.
“It’s mostly a subscription software business, so we expect by the end of this year that we’ll be in the six-digit territory,” Carr said of 2020 revenue, declining to disclose specific numbers.
Carr said the company is targeting Missouri for now, with the state contract in hand, but working outside the state borders is in the plans.
“We have received inquiries from Ohio and North Carolina on expansion in those directions,” he said of the health care software. “We’ve got a lot of interest.”
With only six clients to start, Dygon said the remote monitoring system’s rollout for Arc of the Ozarks was initially going to be larger and debut in the spring.
“The pandemic impacted our plans big time,” Dygon said, adding over 20 clients were going to have access to the technology beginning in April. “We had to push that back.”
However, the demand is there, he said. His goal is to have 40 served remotely by the start of the nonprofit’s next fiscal year in June 2021.
“There’s an excitement about it,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are really wanting the service.”
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