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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Grant advances Aggie-led project to revolutionize senior care industry

Photo by Courtesy of Olera
Medical Grant

After receiving a National Institutes of Health, or NIH, grant, Texas A&M’s Olera Inc. will be able to move forward with their project to revolutionize the elderly care field.

Designed by an interdisciplinary team of students at A&M, Olera is a mobile phone app designed to address difficulties which senior citizens and their loved ones face when navigating the senior care industry. The app strives to connect caregivers to service providers to make finding the right care easier and more streamlined. With new grant funding, the team  will be better equipped to develop technology and curate information for the effectiveness of the app.

Currently in his first year of medical school, chief marketing officer for Olera Inc. Jeswin Vennatt said the project was started by doctoral student and CEO TJ Falohun and chief operating officer Logan DuBose.

“Both [Falohun and DuBose] were heavily involved with an organization at A&M called Sling Health,” Vennatt said. “They were given a prompt about helping the elderly, and it was a general problem involving a medical incubator here at Texas A&M. We just kind of tackled various problems in the medical sphere. Olera is a project that came from that problem with the medical incubator.”

With the help of several A&M academic advisors and faculty members, Vennatt said the team submitted the NIH grant, which resulted in the project receiving $2.3 million in funding to support the project over three years.

“This grant will help us start up our company and a lot of the things that we’re going to be doing,” Vennatt said. “Olera’s goal is to connect caregivers to service providers; that’s our primary goal. And then we have some accessory goals of educational content and providing a medium for all of these caregivers to connect with each other.”

Concerning the project’s funding, Vennatt said an initial amount is given by the NIH so the team can run a pilot study on their service.

“We evaluate the efficacy and effectiveness of the service, and then the NIH will reevaluate, and they decide if you’re meeting all these metrics and if they’re going to give you the rest of the funding to continue this project and fully scale it up,” Vennatt said.

Falohun said he was motivated to start the project by his interest in developing healthcare technologies to assist individuals in need.

“I was looking to pursue entrepreneurship and create novel technologies with other energetic and enthusiastic people,” Falohun said. “The two big efforts are curation of educational materials and developing a software platform to simplify [the curation] and map out the eldercare ecosystem. When you’re making a platform that interfaces with different industries, like we are, the eldercare ecosystem is incredibly complex.”

In eldercare, Falohun said there are service providers like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult daycare facilities, modular services like Meals on Wheels, as well as transport services that have all collected and stored data.

“We’re essentially finding a way to make sense of all of this and simplify it for families and simplify it for care receivers, those who are looking for services,” Falohun said. “A lot of the funds and effort will be toward developing the technology, and the other part is spending time curating the education, the educational piece in terms of informing people of what’s best to do in their situation to meet their needs.”

Within the app itself, DuBose said it takes a user’s specific situation as a caregiver and assesses the patient’s needs. On the back end, DuBose said the company will have access to a whole eldercare ecosystem in the user’s area.

“We have put in a data bank all the useful information about assisted living homes or nursing homes or transportation services or in-home caregivers that you can pay as professionals to come in and help out with these tasks that a user might face as family caregivers,” DuBose said. “We’ve developed a system that can match a family and user to the right resources in their community. The goal is to reduce the caregiver’s burden by supplying them with personalized information about all of the resources that are in their surrounding area that they can access to help out their seniors.”

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