A downtown Ottawa software firm that makes a communication platform for hotels is now offering its technology to medical clinics for free in a bid to help doctors deal with the expected flood of patients during the second wave of COVID-19.
Founded in 2013, MicroMetrics specializes in software that allows front-line hotel workers to quickly communicate with guests via text messages and surveys delivered to their smartphones. Originally aimed at customers in the retail sector, the technology was eventually deployed in hundreds of hotels in two dozen countries.
But like many companies that cater to the hospitality industry, MicroMetrics has taken a punch to the gut during the pandemic as hotels shut their doors due to a drastic drop in business and tourist traffic.
Co-founder and CEO Artem Abramov says the firm’s monthly recurring revenues have fallen over the last six months as more than a third of the hotels it serves have shut down. The firm now employs 13 people, down from more than 20 before COVID-19 struck, and has traded in its former digs in the ByWard Market for smaller co-working space on Laurier Avenue.
“Up until COVID, we had significant growth,” Abramov says. “We had to adjust.”
With major customers such as the Marriott chain – where the MicroMetrics platform could be found in nearly 80 properties prior to the pandemic – not expected to be running at anywhere near full capacity until at least late next year, Abramov began to look at new market verticals.
Then, a conversation at home with his domestic partner, family physician Dr. Angie Dion, inspired him to take the firm in a new direction.
Like many medical professionals across the province, she was experiencing firsthand the hassles of trying to screen and check in patients during the pandemic. Abramov decided to adapt MicroMetrics’ system to serve health-care clinics while it waited for the hospitality sector to rebound.
In response, the company rejigged its platform to allow doctors, dentists, veterinarians and other health-care providers such as massage therapists to screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms via online questionnaires. Patients receive text messages when it’s time to enter the building for their appointment, saving them from gathering in crowded waiting rooms and limiting face-to-face contact with employees.
“They’re the last line of defence outside hospitals,” Abramov says of receptionists and other front-office staff at health-care clinics. “We’re asking them to do everything the way that they’re used to doing it and it’s impossible.”
So far, about three dozen clinics have joined the platform, a number that Abramov expects to grow quickly as the province’s COVID-19 case load continues to rise and flu season approaches. He says he hopes thousands of health-care providers will eventually sign up for the free offer, which runs until the end of December.
While the pivot won’t do much for the company’s bottom line in the short term, Abramov hopes it will lead to more permanent new revenue streams down the road. In the meantime, he says it feels good to support frontline workers who are suffering under the weight of the pandemic.
“We’re trying to simplify (employees’) lives,” he says.