Women in Tech: Laura Simmons, Occupational Therapist & Founder of Theratrak.

In this interview, we are thrilled to chat with Laura Simmons, a passionate paediatric occupational therapist and the visionary Founder and CEO of Theratrak.

With over a decade of experience working one-on-one with children facing various challenges, Laura has dedicated her career to improving the lives of her young patients. Noticing a gap in the ongoing care provided to participants, Laura created Theratrak, a digital platform designed to support therapists and enhance therapy outcomes. 

Laura shares her inspiring journey, the challenges she faced in founding Theratrak, and her innovative approach to combining technology with compassionate care. She also discusses her experiences with telehealth, the impact of Theratrak on reducing clinician burnout, and her advice for aspiring women in tech.

Hey Laura, thanks for joining us today! You’ve been making strides as a paediatric occupational therapist for a decade now, and in 2018, you embarked on a new journey by founding Theratrak. Could you share the defining moment that sparked the idea for Theratrak?

I had the idea for Theratrak a few years into my allied health journey. After graduating, I was working as a Occupational Therapist in Sydney private practice and I often saw my participants would backslide between appointments, families would struggle to remember to practise therapy at home, and momentum between therapy sessions was often lost. 

At first, I thought I could write a book to support therapists to create more impact through their work and provide useful resources for participants at home. 

Then I realised that with technology, my impact could be more scalable vs focused to just one person reading an entire book one time. 

To launch Theratrak, I started out with a basic test which aimed to support therapists to capture notes from therapy and create fun home programs for participants. After testing existing tech solutions with both clinics and participants, I decided I needed to take Theratrak to the next level and create a custom platform that can seamlessly manage home programs, family community and note taking. 

Since 2018, we’ve made many updates to the Theratrak platform and apps so that therapists can easily prescribe home programs in mere minutes, and participants are encouraged to complete activities at home, and communication between all parties is much quicker and easier. 

With your work primarily focusing on 1:1 interaction with children who have various challenges, how did you manage to find time and energy to start Theratrak? Were there any specific strategies or routines you adopted to keep you balanced?

Because I’m so passionate about my work, I find it easy to build motivation to tackle challenges. When I first started out building a tech startup, I had no idea how many challenges we would come across, how many development sprints we would need to create new features, or how many participants we could impact.

At the beginning, I had a big learning curve to understand technology, what’s possible, how we should build Theratrak, and each of the steps to making it a really engaging piece of technology. 

After graduating and building experience as an occupational therapist, I’ve become comfortable with everyday being different. Each of my participants are unique and I love supporting them to reach their goals. And I love to see participants practise their therapy exercises and build skills when they’re at home. 

Each piece of feedback that we get from therapists about how much time we’ve saved them and how much impact we’ve had in their clinic just gives me more fuel to keep going. 

The whole time that I’ve been building Theratrak, I’ve also been supporting participants with 1:1 occupational therapy sessions. I rely on digital tools to help me prioritise and plan my weeks. I make sure I know my priorities for my participants and for my tech team. I always make sure to capture tasks in our project management system and to create really clear to-do lists for myself to keep on top of the many moving parts. 

You’ve played a significant role in providing services via telehealth, especially for children in rural and remote communities. How has this experience shaped your perspective on digital health and the development of Theratrak?

The increased adoption of telehealth has been transformative for the allied health industry. While many clinics adopted telehealth during the intense timing during the global pandemic, the lasting impacts of being able to access health professionals via technology is transformative. 

At Theratrak, we’re on a mission to make allied health therapists’ lives easier through streamlining admin and customised home programs. Therapists are able to spend just a few minutes on creating a personalised home program for each of their participants – which the participants can then access outside of sessions and The Theratrak platform has been instrumental for focusing on eliminating geographical barriers to consistent, quality therapy.

We’re aiming to create a platform that participants with disabilities can use easily from regional areas. 

We’ve completed a few research studies with clinics who’ve used Theratrak to support their waitlist too. There’s increased focus on burnout within the allied health industry as there’s such a demand for their services, and we know many therapists struggle to support their participants, capture all the notes, send home programs, communicate with families and write reports! It’s exciting to see how technology can completely change a clinic and save so much therapist time. 

Theratrak is designed to improve clinician workflow and reduce documentation time, helping to combat mental health issues and burnout among clinicians. Can you share some success stories or data that show how Theratrak has made a difference in this regard?

As for the impact of Theratrak, we’ve seen clinicians reduce their documentation time significantly, allowing them to focus more on care, which is always the goal within therapy. 

We’ve actually created a Clinic Quiz for clinic owners and therapists to be able to estimate how much time they can save with Theratrak. Therapists can answer just four questions about their clinic operations, then we’ll share an estimate of how many hours Theratrak can help save their clinic each week in regards to case notes, home programming, and family communications. 

Especially after the pandemic when the healthcare workforce was overworked, we’ve received so much feedback from clinics about how their therapists are more empowered to focus on delivering outcomes in therapy vs focusing on the admin and note-taking for therapy. We’ve enabled clinicians to devote more time to patient care, significantly enhancing both clinician satisfaction and patient outcomes. These wins reflect our commitment to supporting healthcare professionals while optimising therapeutic care.

Could you share some insights about the challenges you faced in the early stages of developing Theratrak, especially as a woman in tech? How did you overcome these hurdles?

The healthtech industry is a really interesting space. In the allied health world, the majority of therapists and leaders are women – so I’ve regularly seen, been mentored by and led alongside powerful women. The tech industry is dominated by men and it’s far more rare to see a woman in the CEO position. 

I feel lucky that when I first started my journey, I found a community of women who wanted to support each other to reach new heights and make more impact through technology. For anyone starting a new company, there are countless hurdles to jump over and challenges to breakthrough. 

The path from concept to realisation is rarely linear, and it’s filled with challenges that will test your resolve. 

  • Surrounding yourself with mentors who have navigated similar paths is invaluable. Mentors not only provide guidance but they can serve as reminders that there will always be obstacles but it’s about how we approach these challenges which determine our outcomes. 
  • Finding or building a network of like-minded individuals can be a source of strength and inspiration – not just about weathering the storms but also about celebrating the milestones together.
  • Focusing on taking that next step. Many founders want to be at step ten before they’ve even started with step one. I always try to remind myself to focus on something I can control to take a small step in the direction I want to go. 

As Theratrak continues to grow and evolve, what future developments or improvements are you most excited about?

While Theratrak has already grown beyond my initial dreams, I have so many ideas and plans in the works to make Theratrak even better. 

We want to provide even more intuition and support for both clinicians and families. And we’ve got some upcoming product updates to make Theratrak even more impactful within clinics. 

As Theratrak grows, I am particularly excited about harnessing data to inform more personalised and predictive treatment strategies. These insights can further empower therapists in rural and remote areas, where access to specialised care is limited, offering them insights and strategies that are informed by a much bigger dataset of therapeutic outcomes.

I’m really excited about the academic research we’re doing with both Western Sydney University in Australia and A. T. Still University in America. We’re investigating how Theratrak can impact therapy outcomes and we’re excited to eventually have more clinical data to support the effectiveness of the Theratrak platform. 

Finally, as a successful woman in the tech industry, what advice would you give to other women who aspire to bring their innovative ideas to life? What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you started your journey with Theratrak?

For someone entering the tech industry, my key advice is to stay resilient (things will always take longer than you expect), seek mentorship (there are others that can help guide the way as they’ve done this before), and don’t be afraid to change when you need to (pivoting is a normal part of the startup and product process). 

Entering the tech industry, especially with a vision to innovate in healthcare, posed its unique set of challenges. The early days were about proving the viability of Theratrak in a space traditionally dominated by more established players. 

As a woman, it was crucial to assert the importance of my voice and perspective, not just for Theratrak’s sake but for the paediatric occupational therapy community we serve. 

Overcoming these hurdles involved leaning heavily on a network of mentors and allies who believed in the mission as much as I did. This supportive community wasn’t just about encouragement; it was a resource for learning, a sounding board for ideas, and a crucial component in navigating the intricacies of the tech landscape.

Sometimes the advice can become overwhelming, but it’s important to listen to experts and decide how you want to proceed once you’ve got the expert advice. 

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