Altra keeps families in touch with loved ones in care homes

Irish start-up’s simple-to-use software improves communication within centres

Altra founder Adam Keane.

Altra founder Adam Keane.

 

Adam Keane’s family ran a care home in Dublin for more than 30 years and, when he was old enough, Adam started helping out in the business. He subsequently studied economics and finance at UCD, did a master’s in finance at the Smurfit School and spent a number of years in corporate finance before setting up Altra, a software company that has developed a communications platform aimed at helping care homes improve engagement with staff, residents’ families and other stakeholders.

When Keane decided to set up his software business, he sat down with his father to discuss the biggest challenges faced by those running care homes. His dad identified communications, both with staff and families, as an area ripe for improvement.

This provided the impetus for Keane to get cracking on developing two easy-to-use communications tools, Altra Staff which was launched towards the end of 2019 and Altra Family which followed a year later. The company now has almost 80 customers using these products in Ireland, Britain and the United States.

GDPR concerns “There are plenty of communication tools out there, but we’ve focused on the very specific needs of care homes and senior living communities based on the experience of those running them day to day,” Keane says. “A lot of care homes use email and/or texts to communicate with staff but the information often ends up in different people’s inboxes or on one person’s phone, making it difficult to track and manage.

“For family updates, [care] homes often use public social media accounts but this is unsatisfactory as it raises serious privacy and GDPR concerns. Our system is completely private, it ticks the regulatory and compliance boxes and it puts all the information in one place.”

Staff and families are added to or invited to join the care home’s Altra account. When someone logs on, they only see what was sent to them whether that’s a personal message or a group update. The care home has full control over who sees what and who has permission to access what information.

“From personal experience, I know how much a video of grandchildren playing or an old photo can mean to someone living in care and I wanted to make it as simple as possible for families to provide these things for their loved ones – something that became very important during Covid,” Keane says.

“With Altra Family, they can post messages and photos which can be printed out to create weekly personalised newsletters. This is especially powerful for residents with cognitive impairment as it’s a physical memory that creates a conversation piece for staff and families.

“Families can also schedule visits through the system which saves care homes hours in managing visits if guidelines change.”

Recognising that home managers and directors of nursing are always pressed for time, Keane designed the system to be minimally invasive to install and launch. “Altra can be up and running in 20 minutes. We handhold our customers until they get used to it and we’re very hot on customer service because this encourages good feedback and that’s the best way of improving the product,” he says.

Altra has been a remote business since the off. The company employs three people and is about to take on an additional developer.

The revenue model is software-as-a-service and the subscription is based on the number of beds and staff. The platform is free for families to use.

The initial investment in the business was €50,000, which came from Stephen Moore of Ember Capital and subsequent development has been self-funded from sales.

“I don’t subscribe to the view that you have to put enormous amounts of money into software companies to grow them,” Keane says. “You can only grow as fast as your market dictates and I’m content for this to happen organically for Altra.”