Making It Work: Medical consent platform looks to put patients in the know

Avow aims to raise funds for a product that uses videos to help doctors explain medical procedures to patients

16th May, 2021
Making It Work: Medical consent platform looks to put patients in the know
Waterford-based Avow was set up in 2018 by Jane O’Sullivan, Eoin Fleming and James O’Sullivan. Picture: Bryan Meade

A Waterford-based medical consent and education platform is hoping to raise a six-figure investment by the end of the year for a product that allows doctors to explain procedures to patients using videos.

Avow was set up in 2018 by Jane O’Sullivan, Eoin Fleming and James O’Sullivan. The founders believe the technology can be exported worldwide and have received €25,000 in seed funding from Enterprise Ireland.

Avow’s platform allows doctors and medical institutions to text patients a link to a comprehensive video explaining their medical procedure, empowering them with knowledge ahead of surgery or other operative work. This, the company believes, improves the process of giving and receiving consent for both patient and clinician.

The idea came about when Jane O’Sullivan, a qualified doctor, noticed that patients were often not fully aware of the details of the medical procedures they were signing up to.

“We speak in jargon, and we speak quickly to them,” she said of medical professionals. “But what might only be five minutes of my working day is something a patient might have spent six months waiting for.”

Avow has created a suite of professional videos using trained actors including Nigel Mercier, who has appeared in Fair City and Love/Hate, which spell out in simple language the ins and outs of many medical procedures.

The product has been piloted in a surgery in Waterford, and has its first paying customer in Dr Brid Cantwell, a dental surgeon based in Tramore. It is also in final talks with a Dublin hospital and plans to launch the product there in the coming months, O’Sullivan said.

Richard Skinner, an IT consultant, built the back end of the product, which O’Sullivan said offers a better alternative to Zoom or other technological options.

“The problem with technological solutions is sometimes we forget that the average service user could be a 60-something year old with a sixth-class level of reading,” she said.

For this reason, Avow sends users a text message with a straightforward one-click link to a video, which they can watch as many times as they want. Doctors can also see if the patient has viewed the video and how many times they have viewed it.

O’Sullivan said Avow is aiming to attract a dozen paying customers by the end of 202. It will then seek to raise a six-figure investment to fund an expansion into the US and British markets.

“If you’re having your gallbladder out in Ireland, it’s the same procedure as the US or the UK,” O’Sullivan said. “We do see scalability.”

Avow plans to charge medical institutions, rather than patients themselves, for use of the products.

“I feel very strongly that good information is a basic right for patients, so we’re not going to charge patients for the information,” O’Sullivan said.

“I’m a doctor, and I got into this because I want to help patients. I genuinely think that this will help them. Patient consent isn’t just a legal tick box – it’s also giving patients important information to make sure they have the best outcomes.”

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