Laura Simmons, Occupational Therapist and Founder of Theratrak

Episode 4 is brought to you by Theratrak, a digital therapy platform aiming to empower clinicians with the digital tools to provide early intervention to children living with disabilities.


Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health Podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.

Clare Jones Today, we’re joined by Laura Simmons, occupational therapist and founder of Theratrak. Thanks for joining us Laura.

Laura Simmons Thank you so much for having me.

Clare Jones So, in a nutshell, Theratrak is a digital platform that allows therapists to capture and digitize information in therapy sessions, then use this data to prescribe and monitor and track their clients therapy time programs. Is that correct?

Laura Simmons Yes. Got it in a nutshell!

Clare Jones And you’re a paediatric OT based in Sydney who predominately works with children living with a variety of disabilities and learning difficulties.

Laura Simmons Yes, love being a paediatric OT.

Danielle Weedon So as we’ve outlined in email before we caught up today, we’d love to run through a few questions with you. So firstly, can you start by giving us a more detailed overview of your healthcare background?

Laura Simmons So I’ve been a paediatric OT for about ten years. Gosh, it’s crazy when you think about that. Yes, I graduated from Western Sydney Uni and did my last few pracs in paediatrics and mental health and just absolutely fell in love with the whole early intervention and the mental health side of things. I just love being able to help people where they’re at and out in the community and things like that, and then worked in a multitude of different private practices across Sydney. And for anyone that’s lived in Sydney that meant a lot of driving, a lot of driving, and so that was a lot of fun. And then about a year ago I jumped out of working for other people and sort of started doing more of Theratrak on my own, Theratrak was founded in 2018. So we can dig more into that as well, but yeah, started Theratrak I guess after years of just being frustrated with the system that I think can be better and watching other industries and seeing what they were doing and just going we can, we can definitely be doing this better. So yeah, worked in private practice, didn’t really make it in the hospital system. I think my brain was too fast probably. But yeah, that’s me in a nutshell.

Clare Jones So the inspiration was really that you saw a need for tech in the allied health space.

Laura Simmons Yeah, I think it came I mean, it came from a lot of different areas, right? So it was the day to day frustration of private practice where you’re seeing a multitude of kids come in, different family members trying to communicate with them easily and things not going home and people forgetting things the minute that they leave a practitioner. I actually read an article I think just around the time I started Theratrak, and it said that the minute someone leaves a medical practitioner, they forget up to 80% of the information they’ve been told in that session. And that was in aged care. And then I sort of sat with that went, huh? Right. What about a parent, with a kid with a disability? So I’m going, so at home this week, I really would love for you to practice this, and implement this on Friday afternoon at 4:00. Like it’s not going to happen. And so that was that side of it. And then I was watching a lot of my colleagues burn out in paediatrics after 12 months. And I kind of just went like, why? This is an awesome job. Yes, it’s fast paced in private practice, but why are we all burning out so fast? And then I read another stat which scared the pants off me that said 41% of paediatric clinicians will burn out in their career. And that’s insane.

Clare Jones That’s really insane. Laura, when you think of how short we are on OTs, speechies and physios at the moment, we can’t afford to have therapists burning out. We just can’t afford it.

Laura Simmons And so and you go, well, that’s not cool. Like what? Like we can do better. And other industries have innovated. And I mean, you look at look at newspapers, they’ve completely innovated and change and digitally transformed their whole industry so that everyone can keep up with the news. But somehow health care has just kind of been super risk averse and just be like, no, we’ll just stick with the way things have been done. This works. People still come to see us. We still get paid, we still see them, they still finish. And I was like, we can do better, like we can. So yeah.

Clare Jones And how did you get the business started?

Laura Simmons So I was lucky enough to get accepted into an accelerator program. So Startup Accelerator, think Shark Tank in a sense, so pitching to investors and going into sort of a six month program, it was called She Starts. So She Starts is a program for women who had deep industry knowledge with no technical background, but wanted to build tech solutions for social good. And so I applied just sort of crazy of application of like, this is the thing that I think I want to build. I think that’s going to have a huge impact. I had no idea, absolutely none about the industry and how to build tech products or anything like that. And actually, I thought I almost didn’t get in because I didn’t get the email. It went to my junk.

Danielle Weedon It went to junk folder!

Laura Simmons The program manager called me the next day. I’ll never forget this, it was like right before one of my trickiest sessions, and she was like, Congratulations, you got in. And I was like, no, I didn’t. She jumped back and she was like yes you did. And that night before, because I saw everyone else get in, and I was like, oh actually I really want to do this. It kind of gave me more drive. And that was kind of the catalyst for everything. And that was an amazing program. That was six months of business support, tech support. They supported us with a tech team to build the prototype of Theratrak. For me it was the right fit, the right time, the serendipitous moment that kicked in.

Clare Jones And was that full time? Laura, was that a full-time course or part time?

Laura Simmons Part time, so we were expected part time. It was two days a week, one in-person and then the other one was sort of a bit more virtual and they made it really flexible because they’re actually mums on the program as well at the time. So they were like, no, we need to make this so that mums who want to be mum entrepreneurs can participate in the program. And then outside of that it was flexible. I was still working part time for someone else at the time and so I was three days in the clinic, you know, seeing certain clients and then two days doing startup stuff and then probably after work on the weekends, the six months was a bit of a blur to be honest.

Clare Jones Was that beneficial to actually be working while you’re progressing through the course, so that you could actually apply what you were learning to practice, you know, in a very direct sense.

Laura Simmons I think it gave me access to users to test products with straight away. And it sounds weird, but it’s credibility in the healthcare market, right, to be a therapist creating something for therapists. So that makes sense. And I think, you know, when you’re living and breathing the problem, it’s much easier to answer questions and solve problems. So like my tech team would be like, oh, what’s the experience of a clinic director? And have that, oh, here you go. I can walk you through a bunch of different ones I’ve spoken to you. What’s the experience of a parent in this sort of journey? Here’s an example. Or we need to talk to a participant. Sweet, I can call up one of my clients and get them on the phone and get them talking to the tech team. So that made life a lot easier.

Danielle Weedon I bet as well, even though it was your baby and your idea, then be working alongside therapists or business owners that were also excited by the solution to the problems they were having. It kind of would buffer your belief in your product as well.

Laura Simmons Yeah. Yeah. We in I think I interviewed in two weeks a hundred different people, which is crazy. I still don’t even know how I did all these things. The amount of willpower you can have when you’re kind of put between a rock and a hard place.

Clare Jones And when you’re enthused and inspired and excited. It’s often it is a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t seem like hard work at the time, does it?

Laura Simmons No, no. And it’s nice to have therapists around us. We still have some of our really early testing therapists that we met during that program that are still with us on the co-design process. So they’ve been amazing. So they led us into therapy sessions and they talked to us and they tell us what’s the good, the bad, the ugly about the platform. That’s also been really helpful.

Danielle Weedon Yeah. And can you talk a bit about how Theratrak facilitates therapists to support their client’s goals, independence and those therapy outcomes?

Laura Simmons So it’s a really, really cool platform. I’m totally biased on the whole thing really anyway. The way that it works is it’s I would say, it’s like the Snapchat and Instagram for therapy. So it allows a therapist to take a photo and video of their client in their therapy session. So whether that’s them doing a meal preparation and all the steps that go in that meal preparation or that’s them doing a game or doing a movement or doing some handwriting or whatever it might be. You’re taking photos, videos of your clients doing it, which is really meaningful to them. They hear the therapist’s voice over the videos, they see themselves in the videos. We learnt through three years of testing, we had one session with a little boy who was doing the videos in one of our prototypes, and he turned around and we watched the video and he just said to me, I can do that better. And I went yep that’s it. Videos of participants is really, really crucial to this platform. And then the therapist at the end of that session will set notifications. So they’ll say, I want you to do this at 4:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, or I want you to this ten times, or I want you to do this three times a week or whatever that sort of prescription, for lack of a better word, is. And then we also have some feedback that the participants can then fill out on the other side, so they can either fill out our feedback form that we’ve created, which is taken from feedbacks or forms that we use in therapies, and we co-designed with a bunch of therapists and said, what do like out of those two platforms? What don’t we like? What needs to be better? And so we look at performance and satisfaction and confidence and assistance with the task, and we allow a participant to rate that from +3 to -3. So that gets the therapists some quantitative data scores so they can actually track progress over time. And then the other side of it is that we have a journal. So it’s a way for participants and families and support workers and carers and everybody else who’s involved in the therapy treatment to comment on those activities. So did they like it? Was it really tricky? Can I take a photo of when you did it at home so the therapist can then see that on their side and they can help. It helps them make it more informed decision before they get into that next session. So having that data for me anyway, I absolutely love the data. It helps you go, oh, this week was really tricky. Got it. We can go into that. And that’s kind of how it works from an independence perspective. And we’ve also purposely set up the journal. It’s not a chat function. So all the therapists that we worked with said, I don’t have time to chat backwards and forwards to my clients, but I still want to hear that information, see that information. And so we’ve made it like a private Facebook feed almost, right? So all the parents and carers and support workers can comment on it and the therapist can see it, but they don’t chat backwards and forwards.

Danielle Weedon It’s not in real time.

Laura Simmons Yeah. So they get a PDF of it in our clinic portal so they can look at it before the next session just like they look at case notes. Yeah. And it just gives you that, just that little bit of data. So I mean, a great example, one of my clients this week, I saw all of his scores were down in the minus twos, minus ones. And I was like, all right, we’re going in there. We can problem solve; we can figure out what’s going wrong. And, you know, low and behold, just the notifications were going off at the wrong time. Little things like that. I think that just that data is really helpful, right?

Clare Jones Yeah so it’s you know, beneficial in as much as people have got that visual reference and those reminders to do, say, a home program, but then you’ve also got the opportunity to capture feedback at the time they’re doing that program, because that’s the other thing, week to week, when you’re seeing participants, clients, children and their families, when you’re asking questions, how did they go with that? It’s another thing, like you say, if you’re forgetting 80% of what’s been instructed at the end of a session, it’s very difficult to think back during the week, especially when you’ve got a busy family working in paediatrics and say, well, how did that go? I can’t remember. We did that. We did that once.

Laura Simmons There was a meltdown this morning. And I think that therapy is still so episodic in nature right now. So the way our funding models work is we still have this kind of weekly, fortnightly, monthly therapy model that until that changes, which I don’t think will change until we change the workforce, because there’s not enough of us to change that whole model, then we kind of have to have this gap between therapy sessions and we have to have a way to have that information be sent. And, you know, and that’s what I think that’s what people expect to see that information now.

Clare Jones And it really reinforces that message that, you know, one therapy session a week is never going to achieve as much as integrating therapy into your everyday and into your activities of daily living. And I would imagine that this tool is something that really does facilitate that.

Laura Simmons Yeah. Oh, 100%. I mean the research around like ABA therapy and stuff like that. The reason I think why I in my opinion, personal opinion, what ABA works so well is there’s so much intensity, right? It’s like 25, 26, 30 hours a week. It’s so intense. And you see these awesome results. In a real world, that’s not possible for everyone. Kids have to go to school. People have to go to work. They have jobs. There’s things that happen outside. You can’t do that sort of thing. It just doesn’t work with human life.Yeah that’s what how Theratrak helps.

Clare Jones Laura, can I just ask, what’s the scope of therapy? It’s not just paediatrics, is it?

Laura Simmons No. And it kind of scares me every time I think about it. Really. So we started in paediatrics, we started with paediatric OTs. It’s kind of definitely our core and that’s where we’re definitely the strongest. But Theratrak is a fully multidisciplinary platform now. So OT, physio, speech, psych. We’ve got a cranio psychotherapist on our platform. We’ve got ABA therapist, you name it.

Clare Jones And right across the lifespan?

Laura Simmons Right across the lifespan. So we have started in paediatrics, we’ve also got adults with disability on our platform. Eventually, I think we can definitely be a really good support for aged care because I think aged care and paediatrics almost mimic each other. But the platform itself comes preloaded with around 250 early intervention activities, which can also be used in sort of adult disability and things like that. So until we sort of build out the platform and add more activities, then I think that’s kind of where it sits. But in saying that Theratrak is also customizable. So any therapist can jump on our platform and customize the thing to meet their own treatment. So I think I checked it the other day. There’s about two and a half thousand activities on there at the moment. Wow, crazy.

Clare Jones It’s really cool. That’s impressive.

Laura Simmons So much knowledge. Oh, my gosh.

Clare Jones And we discussed this at the OT Australia Conference, OT Exchange last week, but can you tell our listeners more about the latest updates with the gamification model?

Laura Simmons Yes, this is my favorite part. It’s just so much fun. And for those that I met at the conference, I hope everyone still has their stickers because I gave everyone Theratrak awards at the conference, which was really fun. But to give you guys a bit of content, so over the last 12 months we sort of looked at what our participant app was doing and said, we can do better than this, so we can do better than just sending your activities and getting you to tick them off when you’ve completed them, because that’s not fun. We want to do things that are fun in our lives. So we looked at all the other educational games and even some of the games that kids are playing. And so we said, Well, what is the thing that keeps them engaged? That’s not an external motivator. So we know in therapy that intrinsic motivation is the strongest way to behavior change. And so we looked at Pokemon, we looked at Fortnite, we looked at roadblocks, I looked at Duolingo, I looked at all these different platforms. And we’ve sort of created our own unique, innovative way of gamifying Theratrak. So Theratrak now has a reward system in it and the reward system is twofold. So on one side, it’s around engagement. So participants get rewarded with badges for logging onto their app three days in a row, ticking activities off, giving feedback to their therapist so they get that sense of reward from that. And then the other side of it is we have skills rewards. So how that works is obviously we’re working on skills in Theratrak, we’re working on therapy skills, and usually you’re working on, say, a fine motor skill and your therapist might prescribe you different fine motor activities every single week. And so the way that Theratrak works, we have a merit system where it’s bronze, silver, gold and platinum it allows someone to practice something over 12 weeks to get to a platinum badge. And then the last thing that we’ve also introduced is our Theramtes. So our first Theramate that’s been released, it’s named Kelly and it’s a koala and all Theramates are going to be Australian animals because we’re an Australian company. I think that is just right on so many levels and I love Kelly. Kelly so awesome. You’ve got a little superhero cape and it gives that positive reinforces as they complete things. And the ultimate goal as we sort of grow and get more users on our platform is so that you can spend your platinum badges and earn more Theramates. So kind like of Pokemon in a sense. Yeah. And those Theramates are those little therapy buddies that go with you on the therapy journey. So there’ll be little stories, but one I guess for me anyway, I hear it so much in paediatrics, is “it’s just me doing this. I’m the only one in therapy” and I find when kids find out that there’s a friend or there’s someone else doing it with them, they get so much more motivation. And you just see kids when they have avatars and people when they have avatars in different gaming situations, they just that peer to peer mentoring is a really strong way I mean, we use it in PT and personal training all the time. Like having someone that I’m accountable to that’s going with me on this journey is really important. So that’s what the Theramates are. I’m so excited. We haven’t released the rest of them, but they will. The hint is they all will be Australian animals to start.

Clare Jones I love that concept.

Danielle Weedon So great. And can you tell us a little more about their Theratrak’s integration with Cliniko and Coreplus?

Laura Simmons Yes. Yes. So our goal is to integrate with all of the case management software systems. So if anyone’s listening that is running a case management software assistant, please reach out to me. I’ll give you my contact details at the end. But we are integrated with Cliniko and just about to announce Coreplus as well. So the way that that works is we enable therapists to create accounts. So we take first name, last name, email, address and date of birth of clients from your case management system, you can search for them and add them really quickly on Theratrak, so when you’re in a therapy session, hit search, find your client’s name, add them into Theratrak. And then at the end, when you’ve sent your home program, all of the case notes, all of the metadata, so the activity details, what you’ve prescribed, your notes, all of that sort of thing get automatically saved into your case notes in Cliniki and Coreplus. And the way that we’ve done that is a little bit more unique than some of the other platforms. So we’ve done it because being a therapist, where do I look for my notes about therapy? In my case, that’s not in the files section. So we’ve actually we put the Theratrak program into their case notes in draft so that when a therapist finishes their session, they go back to their computer and they’re writing their case notes. Theratrak’s already sitting there, they can add their observations and hit save and then hopefully cut that note writing time in half. Wouldn’t that be great.

Clare Jones Yeah. Yeah. More on the therapy, less on the notes.

Laura Simmons Oh, yes, please. Maybe it’s a personal thing. Maybe that’s why I’m building it.

Clare Jones  I don’t know many therapists that love report writing. No, that’s wrong there are therapists out there that love very detailed reports. I never did. And what’s the cost to two business owners? And do you provide training for therapists?

Laura Simmons Yes. We always have. We have a 30 day free trial that anyone can sign up to. And then our pricing model is tiered. So if you’re a sole trader, it’s $39.99 a month and then it goes down in different price brackets, down to $14.99 a month for enterprise customers. And that’s a per license there, per license per therapist model. And then participants have access to the platform for free. Generally, our therapists will sort of embed the cost into the therapy session or use it as sort of that admin cost in their therapy time. And then training, we always do free training. It takes 30 minutes. If you don’t learn Theratrak in 30 minutes, then I’ve done something wrong. We also have on our platform something called their Theratrak You. So Theratrak You is about 20 minutes of short one minute videos for both therapists and for participants and they can go through those videos. It’s how to log in, how to track my progress, how to do all those sorts of things. So we have that embedded in the system as well. So if a new team member gets onboarded, they can jump straight onto Theratrak. You watch the videos or they can jump on and do team training with us, we do it by Zoom. So thank you, COVID for the little things of getting everyone pros on Zoom and teams and things like that. But Zoom has got an awesome thing that we can screen share with phones and stuff, so we can run through demos pretty easily.

Danielle Weedon Easily. That’s great. And now this next question is great for any therapists or allied health business owners with significant waitlists. What are some of the innovative ways that therapists are using your platform to alleviate their waitlists?

Laura Simmons Yeah, this has been actually something that really surprised me. I think all therapists are really innovative, but some therapists are using it to create programs that they can send and track without actually people coming into therapy sessions. So a really good example of this was we partnered with a psychology clinic down in Victoria at the end of last year, in one of the waves of the lockdowns, and the clinic sort of said, look, we have all these amazing psycho educational resources that, you know, we’ve developed over the years that we run in group programs, but we can’t see people. The waitlist is growing, I think she said like 90% increase in referrals or something like that. And she was like, I just can’t send them anywhere. So she created this eight week program on Theratrak and she had one of her provisional psychs send out the programs each week, quickly monitor Theratrak to just make sure that, you know, people were ticking things off in their score were sitting in the right in the right location and things like that. And what was really cool, we actually did a pre and post study with the participants in their mental health program and we use the Core ten and the Das 21 for any psychologist listening. And everyone’s scores came down statistically significant. So everyone’s mental health improved. No one saw a psychologist face to face. Everyone felt more supported at the end of the eight weeks. And some of the people didn’t come back to needing psychology. So this was really cool. And so that’s one of the ways where therapists are going. I have a feeding program, I have a social skills program that, you know, we normally run in groups, so we normally run with all these resources. And so therapists are using that to go, well, I can put these people on, you know, that are on the waitlist on at least a program that’s supporting them while they can’t come into a therapy session, which I think is awesome because the person on the other side is going, well, I’m not just getting a Google drive that I’m downloading handouts from. I know that a therapist is sending this to me. They’re watching it.

Danielle Weedon They’re going to watch it, that’s right.

Laura Simmons And I mean, even if you’re charging it at a at a fraction of the cost, you know from our dashboard really quickly, everyone’s going, okay, awesome. Some people have sent me some feedback that looks like things are really tricky. I can check back in with them, but you know, maybe you can monitor ten people in an hour versus, you know, one person every hour.

Danielle Weedon And also great for therapists that want to service regional, remote and, you know, outlying areas that can’t access face to face therapy services.

Laura Simmons Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. We found that therapists really like using Theratrak with their telehealth services as well, because it was an easy way for them to send, you know, short little videos. During COVID I had on my desk, I had all these little videos that I was sending people because I was like, Oh, this is how I want you to do this fine motor activity or this is how I want to do this feeding thing. And so it works. So short little videos, very, very useful for people, I think.

Clare Jones Very effective learning tool. And finally, Laura, how can therapists and business owners, allied health practices get in touch with you?

Laura Simmons Yeah, multiple ways. I’m on almost every platform these days. So I’m on LinkedIn, so always find me on LinkedIn and connect and say hi. I even just love hearing about people’s businesses and what they’re doing, which is really cool and learning how every therapist does things differently. And so that we can keep building their track so that it fits the multitude of allied health. Otherwise, my email is or they can jump on our website and book a free trial book a free demo always happy to do those things or follow us on Instagram @theratrak.

Clare Jones Can you subscribe directly on the website?

Laura Simmons Yes. Yeah. So when you subscribe, it’ll take you through a sort of a payment platform. And then we verify that making sure we get everyone’s registration numbers to make sure that the therapist’s using Theratrak. And so then we verify that you’re a therapist and then we activate your free trial within 24 hours. So super easy.

Clare Jones Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us today, Laura. It’s definitely an exciting time to be in the tech space and in the allied health tech space. Yeah so good luck.

Laura Simmons Thank you.

Danielle Weedon Thanks, Laura. Really good to chat again.

Laura Simmons Yeah, you too.

Speaker We hope you enjoyed listening to the Allied Health Podcast. In the show notes, you’ll find links to our free recruitment resources, job opportunities, and healthcare marketplace insights. To listen to new episodes, please subscribe via Apple, Google or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. And if you’ve enjoyed the show, please give it a five star rating and review. And be sure to tell your therapy colleagues and friends to tune in.