A Waterloo Region startup has teamed up with a provincial agency to assist Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care facilities identify workplace threats and improve safety.
The upshot is not only safer working conditions, but better bang for every taxpayer dollar spent.
Focus 21 is a nearly five-year-old firm, originally incubated at Communitech, that designs software solutions. It connected with an organization called the Public Services Health & Safety Association, which is tasked by the Ontario Ministry of Labour to reduce workplace risks and prevent occupational injuries and illness, more than two years ago. The company eventually bid on a project to help PSHSA turn what was a paper-based risk evaluation system for hospitals and long-term care facilities into a fully functional, self-service portal that care facilities can use to ensure they’re in compliance with health and safety legislation, and to improve workplace safety.
The outcome has been reduced administrative workload for both the PSHSA and hospitals, better compliance, savings across the board. And safer hospitals.
“For sure it’s making a difference,” says Henrietta Van Hulle, Vice-President, Client Outreach, at PSHSA, who adds that some 300 healthcare organizations in Ontario have created accounts using the new online tool and that hundreds of assessments have now been completed.
“A one-to-one approach for delivering safety information is not going to work when we have thousands and thousands of healthcare organizations across the province and we have a small staff,” says Van Hulle. “We can certainly see the interest there for leveraging technology, from these types of assessment tools and even in the way we deliver training and information.
“It’s been a good partnership.”
That’s music to the ears for Focus 21 CEO and co-founder Ilya Peskov, who says making a difference, using technology for good, is baked into his company’s DNA.
“We are very aligned with the Tech-for-Good Declaration,” says Peskov, referencing the living document forged by a group of attendees at last year’s inaugural True North Conference that established a set of guiding principles for builders of technology.
“We love making platforms that do good.”
The collaboration, he says, began “totally randomly” with a phone call that happened to get made at the right time. “We were looking for clients. They were looking for technology partners.”
A series of fact finding meetings took place in order to understand PSHSA’s mission and workflows and then construction began on a made-to-order solution.
“It’s like a project management tool for [hospitals and care facilities] to complete the risk assessment and know what [their] scorecard and rating is,” says Peskov.
“It digests information by department and creates recommendations and to-do lists and an action plan to minimize the risk [they’ve] just reported. It explains in clear English what needs to be done and you can assign a person and a due date.
“It not only generates good reporting for the Ministry, [but] for the hospital administrator it creates a nice, clean dashboard of how the assessment is going and which areas to pay attention to.
“It’s a great example of investing in technology and making an impact at a way different scale.”
Focus 21 now has nearly 50 employees and contractors. Last April it moved out of Communitech and leased space at 101 Frederick St., the same building that houses the Kitchener passport office. Another growing tech company, ApplyBoard, has recently moved into the same building.
Peskov, who graduated from Conestoga College’s software engineering technology program, started Focus 21 with co-founder Jeff Aramini, who is now the company President. They originally based the company in Guelph, but moved into Communitech after going on a tour.
“I thought, this is really cool,” recalls Peskov. “The vibe was good. The feel of the building aligned with who we were.”
Unsurprisingly, they’re firm believers in the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem and the role organizations like Communitech play in helping tech firms get a footing.
“[Communitech CEO] Iain [Klugman] said Communitech is like a gym,” recalls Peskov. “You have to put in your own work. You have to use the tools around the gym to get the results you want. If you think you can come in and just sit in the gym to get in shape or lose weight, well, no. You have to use all the resources provided to you wisely and find what works.”
The company got its start building software solutions as a sideline to pay the bills while it worked on what it believed would emerge as its core business.
“One of our mentors at Communitech said, how do you guys keep the lights on? Where do you get funding? We said, ‘Well, we usually go find some work on the side using data-driven systems and then funnel revenues to our product.’
“He said, ‘Why don’t you do more of that? Why don’t you focus on that?’
“That was a good question. Why didn’t we?”
Which brings them to where they are today, building systems for organizations like PSHSA.
I don’t feel like we’re a startup any more,” says Peskov. “We’re a stay-up.
We learned a lot about user experience over the last few years.
“We help companies with their digital transformation. We help them stay relevant for the 21st century.”
Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto. This article originally appeared on their site.