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Enough About the Gorillas, How About a Lemur

by John Moore | March 06, 2008

Plenty has been written, both here and elsewhere about the two 800-pound gorillas, Google and Microsoft’s, respective plays in the consumer healthcare sector. Yes, what they are doing is extremely important to this industry and will change the healthcare industry in ways we have yet to imagine, but let’s giving this story some breathing room, at least for today and focus on a lemur instead.

A tiny Canadian company, TinyEye is doing something right now to address a problem that plagues many a youngster, speech impediments. My own younger brother suffered from this as a child and had a couple years of tutoring to overcome his speech impediment. Luckily, my parents could readily afford a tutor and we always lived in relatively dense, suburban communities so it was not that hard for my brother to meet with a speech pathologist once a week.

But what about those children who live in rural communities? Well, that is where TinyEye comes in.

The founder, Marnee Brick, is a speech pathologist and was struggling to visit all her clients spending more time in the car, than with a patient. Three years ago, she brought the topic up with her brother, Greg Sutton, who suggested using the Internet to deliver services and TinyEye was born. The two built out a telehealth solution that would allow a speech pathologist to deliver services via the web, using simple, speech-centric computer-games coupled with an Internet videocam that allows the speech pathologist to work with the child online and remotely to observe in real-time a child’s pronunciation and make corrections. Really, pretty slick little solution that addresses a real market need and gives one some idea as to how telehealth can be applied to some seemingly mundane, but important problems.

TinyEye is a hosted SaaS (software as a service) solution that includes some 40+ games that a speech pathologist can easily configure to their patient’s needs based on a wide variety of articulations. The patient is provided access to the online games by their speech pathologist for doing “homework” between virtual (and real) visits. As these games are hosted online, the pathologist can also go back and see how a patient is progressing in doing their homework assignments.

The product went beta in November 2006 and had their first paying customer by March 2007. TinyEye is methodically growing out its business, which is surprisingly international for such a young start-up having clients in Canada, the US, Mexico and even Argentina. Typical customer today is a school district that covers a large geographical area and provides speech training to students in elementary grades. By adopting the solution, the school district typically cuts trip visits by speech pathologists neaarly 75%, with the pathologist visiting schools once a month rather than the prior once per week schedule to give instruction. As a subscription service, pricing is flexible depending on modules used, number of pathologists, etc. What the company has found most successful though is to price the solution based on a traditional ROI model, which is this case is time and resource (most often travel costs) cost savings for the school district.

Final Assessment

Nice, simple example of what a small company can do leveraging new technology platforms and business models to address a very real need in the market. TinyEye is certainly not out to solve all the ills in healthcare today, nor could they, but their focused approach on a well-defined niche is solving a clear problem. TinyEye is not big, its not fancy (marketing could use some help here) but it works and it is delivering value today to pathologists, patients and funding agencies.

I love finding companies like this.

As an analyst one can easily get drowned in the hype of what the Big Boys are doing. It is refreshing at times to find simple companies like TinyEye. What was even more surprising for me, is that in a relatively simple search and review, I could not find anyone else doing what TinyEye is doing – they do seem to be unique.

Again, a breath of fresh air after all the other hype including HIMSS. Three cheers to all the small lemurs in the market addressing healthcare issues one problem at a time.

2 responses to “Enough About the Gorillas, How About a Lemur”

  1. […] something right now to address a problem that plagues many a youngster, speech impediments.” Article John Moor, Chilmark Research, 6 March […]

  2. […] We first connected with John through the blogosphere and ended up have a great conversation with him about Speech Therapy, TinyEYE, and Telehealth. He was kind enough to write a glowing review of TinyEYE on his blog which can be read HERE. […]

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