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Ottawa health technology startup growing fast in residential care homes

Midweek Mugging: After changing course to recreation programs 18 months ago, Ottawa-based Welbi has seen massive growth
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Ottawa-based Welbi expects to almost double the number of retirement homes that use its technology by the end of this year after finding success aiding care workers with recreation programming and getting to know their clients in a more intimate way.

After starting as wearable technology for seniors, Welbi pivoted roughly 18 months ago to manage information relating to recreation and activities, and has found marked success and great feedback in long term residential care facilities.

The idea, according to President and CEO Elizabeth Audette-Bourdeau, was to cut red tape for administration at facilities, many of which many are still keeping track of information on paper.

“We realized the issue was not to keep track of vital signs or habits of someone through a bracelet, but to engage them and get them out of their room because what we noticed is the people in charge of engaging the residents are overwhelmed,” Audette-Bourdeau said in an interview with OttawaMatters.com.

“If we could give the right tools and resources...we can help and support them and save all the time they’re spending on administrative tasks, which is up to 30 hours a month.”

Audette-Bourdeau said the less administrative and paperwork involved, the more time focussed on events and activities for residents that may be socially isolated.

For example, if a number of residents have marked they like swimming, dance classes or chess, it gives programming directors an idea of where their residents would be most comfortable or engaged.

Welbi keeps track of a number of data points through its intake assessment and allows to staff to follow wants, needs, likes and dislikes along with important dates for residents.

“Now they know everything about their community,” Audette-Bourdeau said.

Welbi is in the process of being put into 265 facilities and plans to get up to 500 by the end of 2020, with the overwhelmingly positive feedback helping aid growth, according to Audette-Bordeau.

“Most of our users have actually said they’d quit if they were ever to not have Welbi anymore because were automating most of the tasks they had to do...and now they can just focus on taking care of their residents which is originally why they wanted to do the job,” she said.

The idea for Welbi was a side project while going to school and juggling two other startups back in 2016, as Audette-Bourdeau was looking for a way for her and her family to keep tabs or track of her ailing grandfather from a distance, so she understands the issues within residential homes.

She said the team finds immense satisfaction in being able to aid the quality of life for those living in assisted living conditions or homes.

A small example Audette-Bourdeau points to is staff being aware of a couple’s wedding anniversary and being able to set up a small surprise party for them to celebrate the occasion.

“It makes the experience more personalized and they’re their for their residents,” she said.

The team also plans to expand this year, with plans to hire in the immediate future as its growth is expected to continue.

A south-Montreal native, Audette-Bourdeau has business in her blood, her father an entrepreneur and her mother a manager, which led her to the University of Ottawa after completing CEGEP in Quebec.

“Everything I wanted to do, there was this background of ‘I want to own something and run it,” she said, adding her first mission was to learn English before diving into business at the University of Ottawa.

“My parents have never given me anything ‘straight up,’ it’s always been if you want it, work for it. That’s how I’ve grown up and I’ve applied it to everyday life."

The small business community has been incredibly supportive, she said, which has helped her reach her goals and push forward.

“We’ve got amazing support from everyone, we’re very lucky to be in Ottawa and I love the community,” she said.

“One of the main reasons we want to succeed in Ottawa is we want to be able to give back to the community the same way it's given to us.”




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