Estonian startup SpeakTX, founded by Birgit Krieger and Andres Mellik, aims to make speech therapy enjoyable and engaging for children and patients, employing technology to enhance the learning experience.
Streamlining speech and care
SpeakTX digitalises speech therapy to enable personalised therapy sessions and give flexibility and increased control over the exercises. Speech impairment is a common problem among children, but restoring speech and language skills is also needed with post-traumatic patients or in the case of neurological impairments.
“The shortage of speech therapists is global, and access to speech therapists is inadequate everywhere, so we simply cannot meet the therapeutic needs of all patients and provide an adequate level of service using traditional methods,” says Salome Virkus, SpeakTX head of business development. “The demand for a digital environment came from therapists, who saw the potential to develop and improve speech therapy – by making it more effective and shorter in duration, help would reach more people and be more affordable.
However, the specificity of speech therapy is language-based and exercises need to be adapted to each language environment. So, as is typical of a startup, our core team in Estonia is quite small, but we are proud of SpeakTX’s international team of developers and speech therapists working in different countries. In addition to Estonia, we are currently active in Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and Germany, and we are in the process of creating local teams in several other countries,” adds Virkus.
Speech therapists have estimated that using the SpeakTX environment can save up to 30% of contact therapy time. Regardless of whether the speech therapist is paid for by the private client or by the state, this is an opportunity for huge resource savings. Virkus says that while Estonia will always be the birthplace of their story, their aim is to contribute to the export of innovation and to cement Estonia’s image as a technological trendsetter.
“Estonia has been for decades proud of its innovative thinking and numerous technological achievements. A community of people has emerged here who think about creating a better future and are willing to put a lot of energy into it. Distances are short, not only geographically but also between people, making it much easier to turn ideas into reality than in many larger countries.”
Co-founder and executive advisor of SpeakTX, Andres Mellik, has been creating digital health solutions already before the term ‘digital health’ even existed. His company, Cognuse, is offering software solutions for critical disease management and rehabilitation and is actively participating in DeepTech R&D activities with large academic and healthcare partners both in the USA and the EU.
Just before the pandemic hit, Mellik founded CoNurse.net for solving a widespread issue in healthcare – the lack of systematic support for medical professionals like nurses. CoNurse allows the convenient integration of nursing-related guidelines and protocols into the workflow, but it is also able to support, for example, the loved ones of a stroke patient.
The startup has also become a tool for students and nurses who are just starting out, as it helps them to effectively learn and reinforce procedures. For experienced nurses, CoNurse provides support when conducting and remembering critical, complex and infrequent procedures. The smartphone app also supports nurses in setting up medical devices and conducting tests.
A year ago, CoNurse received funding via the applied research programme of Enterprise Estonia for R&D. With the support, the CoNurse solution will be coupled with a predictive model that helps identify when a nurse needs extra support to carry out a procedure. The project will also involve exploratory interviews with nurses and nursing managers from several hospitals, including the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US and Bamberg Sozialstiftung in Germany. The goal is to create an advisory board of nurses that will draw on practical experience to contribute to the future development of CoNurse and provide ongoing feedback.