Q&A with Ann Higgins of Medical Audits
We discuss technology and healthcare, time-saving innovations and finding the right business partner with the co-founder of Medical Audits Ltd, Ann Higgins.
Medical Audits is a technology company that provides bespoke mobile auditing systems to the healthcare sector. ‘TS+’ Medical Audits systems are based on best practice standards, guidelines and recommendations. The company also provides training programmes and consultancy services around infection prevention and hygiene related issues.
It has been an exceptionally busy time for Medical Audits, can you bring us through the highlights?
We launched our first audit – a hand hygiene auditing system TS+, at the start of 2014. Since then, we have been busy promoting our company, Medical Audits and our auditing systems -firstly our hand hygiene audit and more recently our care bundle audits in Ireland and throughout the UK.
We have, of course, also continued researching and developing a whole range of other audits for the healthcare market – concentrating firstly on Infection Prevention and Control audits such as audits for preventing infection associated with Intra-venous devices (IV devices such as Drips and central lines) and preventing infections associated with Urinary catheters.
We have now just launched a complete range of audits specifically designed to ensure a safe environment for patients suitable for use anywhere care is delivered - in hospitals, nursing homes, residential care settings etc. These cover all the standards related to safe management of linen, waste, sharps, patient equipment and the patient’s environmental cleanliness.
So all in all it has been a great year for us.
What triggered the idea for Medical Audits?
The idea came about when I was implementing the World Health Organisation Multi Model Strategy for Hand Hygiene (proven to improve hand hygiene compliance).
I was frustrated with the time I had to spend sitting at my computer, entering the data I had collected during audits onto data bases. I was then spending more time trying to work out results and prepare reports so I could provide feedback and ensure issues identified could be addressed promptly.
In fact, for every hour I spent auditing, I needed to spend another hour in the office.
I looked at what was available on the market and realised that actually nothing met my requirements so I set about trying to find a technology company who understood what I was trying to achieve and who were as enthusiastic and committed to the idea as I was.
Many meetings and phone calls later, I found Chetan and his company SynergiDesign through a mutual friend and a whole new chapter in both our professional lives began.
What makes Medical Audits different to other auditing companies?
We are lucky to have a really knowledgeable team with years of experience in healthcare, education and training and years of experience in technology, marketing, and branding. That puts us in the unique position of being able to create something that reflects accurately what professionals in this niche sector need.
We design systems that we know not only meet the needs of nurses and other healthcare professionals, but that exceed their needs and expectations.
Our systems don’t just audit, they support, advise and educate users and also provide an in-depth analysis of the data collected in real time – on digital dashboards and via our web based management and reporting systems.
What type of audits is available for customers?
To date, we have audits for the following:
- Hand hygiene compliance.
- Intravenous care bundle audits for both peripheral lines (drips) and central lines (PICC lines and ports).
- Urinary catheter care bundle audits including Houdini (an assessment of the need for urinary catheters) and surveillance of catheter related infections.
- Waste Management.
- Linen Management.
- Sharp management and staff knowledge of sharp safety.
- Patient equipment.
- Environmental hygiene and cleanliness monitoring.
How do the auditing systems work?
The user watches what healthcare workers are doing, and the paperwork associated with it, to ensure it meets international standards and best practice guidelines. The data collected is entered into the audit devices by simply touching the screen and choosing options that unfold based on selections made by the user.
All the information collected is immediately available on the audit device to facilitate training and feedback. Real-time digital dashboards and reports are also available via phones, laptops, iPads, tablet computers and desktop computers, so no matter where staff or the boss is, he/she can see up-to-the minute results across all the care settings under their remit.
Was your biggest challenge initially?
Initially, my biggest challenge was finding a partner with the technology skills and vision to take on this long term project. I spent months talking to technology companies in Ireland and then in the UK until a mutual friend introduced me to Chetan.
Our next challenge was trying to find the correct brand for our company and our products. We took a lot of time to study our market and tested various branding concepts as we wanted everything to be perfect and our customer base to associate very positively with our brand.
Another challenge we continually face is the need to continually test all our systems to make sure they operate efficiently and surpass the customer’s needs – this is an expensive process but is something we deeply value.
How has the Local Enterprise Office Dublin City supported your business so far?
Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to the staff at Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Dublin City.
I participated in the mentor programme, and David O’ Keeffe provided invaluable advice and support while I was trying to get a company to develop the system and later when we were preparing for launch.
Once the company was established, we needed to develop our product – our hand hygiene auditing system – and this took time. The staff at the Local Enterprise Office Dublin City were really helpful both in the advice they provided and by helping us finance this early stage with a priming grant.
Later, when we were launching in the UK, the export grant they provided to us was again really helpful.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs, who may be thinking of starting their own business?
Firstly – if you have a good idea and know what you want then find someone to work with who will listen to you not someone who will want to do things their way.
Make sure you have the support of your family and friends because starting your own business is like making the decision to have a baby.
Your business, just like a new baby, will consume all your interest and you will talk of nothing else for years.
Like a baby, you will need to nurture your new business and help it develop and grow and this will take all your time and all your energy.
And just like a baby –by the time the business is three, it will be a little more self-sufficient and things will get a little easier.
What are your ‘top tips’ for succeeding in the industry?
- Listen to your potential customers and current customers - really listen.
- Makes lots and lots of notes and then add to them and use this knowledge to build your product or service.
- Be honest and fair and approachable – then you will always have friends and always be able to sleep at night.
Don’t give up; success is built on hard work, perseverance …. and a few of your mother’s prayers.
Our thanks to Ann Higgins for taking part in this interview.
For more in-depth information around the services on offer through Medical Audits, please visit www.medicalaudits.co.uk, or find them on Twitter at twitter.com/medicalaudits