Baltimore County firm launches digital enrollment tool for school-based health centers
WellCheck hopes to build off its Covid-19 growth by working with Maryland’s school-based health centers.
By Matt Hooke – Reporter
July 24, 2023, 07:14am EDT
Monkton-based WellCheck last month launched a health care enrollment application that will enable schools to digitize the process of getting students enrolled in health care services at school. The eight-person firm is looking to appeal to Maryland’s 95 school-based health centers, which are staffed with fully licensed nurses and can provide flu shots, physicals and other more advanced types of medical care at public schools.
Parents enrolled 28,497 students in Maryland school health centers in 2021, leading to 42,440 visits, according to the Maryland Assembly on School Based Health Care, an advocacy organization. The first client for the new WellCheck product is the St. Mary’s County Health Department, with plans to expand to Harford and Howard counties.
“We filled a much-needed gap in that enrollment process for these clinics. If students are not enrolled, and schools don’t have consent from the parents, then students can’t be seen,” CEO Chris Nickerson said.
WellCheck is digitizing the signup process so parents can enroll their students in health care services at school-based centers online, instead of relying on their child bringing a huge stack of health care information and permission forms to and from school.
“The pandemic shed light on how there are a lot of paper processes that we could automate and streamline,” Nickerson said.
The launch of the new enrollment application tool comes after demand for WellCheck’s health screening services exploded during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company went from sending out 20,000 to 30,0000 health notifications a day before Covid-19 to sending out over a million alerts to people across the globe during the height of the pandemic.
The WellCheck platform was not initially built as a health care tool though. Founder Sara Madgey built the software to be a two-way notification system for active lockdowns at the McDonogh School, an Owings Mills-based private school, to help staff know the status of a child in an active shooter situation or other emergency. The application had started to dip its toes into health care before the pandemic as a tool for annual wellness visits.
After Nickerson acquired the company in 2019, school systems wanted to use the software to conduct Covid-19 screenings. WellCheck launched vaccine checks in 2020 to provide Covid testing reminders, allow people to display proof of vaccination and offer return-to-work procedures.
The demand for Covid-19 focused services has gone down, but many governments and companies are still looking for more holistic products to improve patient care, Nickerson said.
The local education technology industry boomed during the Covid-19 pandemic as schools saw increased needs for both tutoring and healthcare. Some ed-tech experts believe that the industry could see a decline when federal aid dollars to local school districts run out and governments ends contracts because of a lack of funds.
WellCheck may avoid the worst of the ed-tech decline because the Maryland government plans to continue funding school-based health centers with $6.5 million in annual state grants through the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future” law, which will help fill the void left by federal spending. WellCheck also works with private sector clients, like Sierra Nevada Brewing, Harley-Davidson Motorcycles and Coca-Cola in order to have a more diverse revenue stream.
The digital health sector is an expanding portion of the startup industry that is relatively insulated from the wider market downturn, said George Nemphos, an attorney and managing member of Baltimore County-based Nemphos Braue, who frequently represents entrepreneurs. Rising health care costs and an aging population mean more companies and patients are looking for ways to cut down on health care costs.
“The cost of insurance and the cost of care has gone up,” Nemphos said. “Now everybody is searching for how to bring that down.”