Any nursing student will tell you that a successful clinical rotation is not only a highlight of the semester, but often an exciting introduction to what could be a lifelong specialty.
But for supervisors trying to arrange clinicals, the task is arduous. Matching students with the experiences they need, the medical centers that can accommodate them, and coordinating placements around varying academic schedules, has always been a challenge.
A team of former UConn students, their professor, and an industry expert have created a new company, called Appoint. Appoint’s inaugural product will be a software, called Clinical Assistant, that the founders believe will simplify the process, save time, and meet the needs of students, faculty, and medical practitioners.
“What was needed was a simple, intuitive software that would automate the majority of it, and save time and effort for the clinical team,’’ says Hunter Bowden ’20 (BUS), ’22 MSBAPM and a co-founder of the startup. He and his colleagues discovered that often schedulers are using partial Excel spreadsheets or even penciling in clinical assignments on paper.
“Trying to do that with a student’s full-time academic schedule, plus one-, two- or even three- clinicals, is a challenge, multiplied by hundreds of students a semester,’’ says Bowden, whose mother is a nurse. “It’s a lot of labor, and with today’s technology, it shouldn’t have to be so hard.’’
Capstone Project Turned Into a Business
When Bowden and alumni Michael Greco ‘20 (BUS) and Hailey Altobelli ’20 (BUS) were undergraduates in the Management Information Systems program at the School of Business, Professor Jon Moore asked them to develop a nursing clinical software as a capstone project.
Moore had recognized the need for the software after speaking with a friend, Michelle Saglimbene ’10 (NUR), a clinical nursing coordinator at Fairfield University and a nursing manager at Stamford Health. Both she and Moore joined the Appoint startup as co-founders.
Over the last 18 months, the Appoint entrepreneurs have revised the software program and are now using beta testers for feedback and adjustments. The program has become more sophisticated, including prompts for students that ensure that all information is timely. Bowden said the company plans to start marketing Appoint’s Clinical Assistant in January, and have it in schedulers’ hands in time for the start of the Fall 2023 semester.
Appoint’s software will have some competitors in the marketplace, including companies that sell software bundles to universities. But Appoint’s Clinical Assistant has a strategical advantage because it was built exclusively for nursing clinicals, and has a simple and intuitive design.
“Nurses are great and smart people, but often not tech people,’’ he says. “We wanted our software to be simple and allow our algorithm to do the bulk of the work automatically.’’
Startup to Compete for $25,000 Wolff Prize
The startup participated in the School of Business’ Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CCEI) Summer Fellowship, which helps bring promising ideas to the marketplace. Appoint was one of five UConn-affiliated startups selected to compete in the School of Business’ pinnacle competition, the Wolff New Venture Competition, and vie for a $25,000 prize. The competition is in October.
Bowden said the summer program provided a tremendous boost to the company, both in providing a network of industry experts and a like-minded cohort of enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
“The people of CCEI are diverse in where they come from and what they know and all have been really great to work with,’’ he says. “They care about us and want us to succeed. The connection with the mentors was terrific. We were grateful to all but particularly for the help with things like taxes, which, if not done properly can destroy a company.’’
“You don’t know what you don’t know,’’ he says. “It’s a cliché but it is so true. One of my favorite exercises was around finances and whether the company would actually be viable. Forcing us to go through that exercise was very valuable.’’
Bowden said he believes the diverse talent of the startup founders has served the new company well. He describes Greco as a coding superstar and Altobelli as a marketing guru. Moore and Saglimbene add experience and perspective, he says. Bowden, who comes from a multi-generational business family and two parents who are UConn alums, will represent the team in the competition.
“As excited as I am to compete for the Wolff prize, I have to say the 10 teams that participated in the Summer Fellowship were all amazing. It was so much fun to connect with these people. We’ve got a group chat going and I think we’ll always keep in touch as we venture out,’’ he says.
“My takeaway from Wolff and CCEI Summer Fellowship is that UConn has an incredible entrepreneurship development program and I’m proud to be part of it. I’m excited and proud to see us grow together,’’ he says. “I think the teams that come through have a make-or-break perseverance.’’
The 2022 Wolff New Venture Competition will be held on Oct. 3, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on the Observation Deck at the Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford. It will also be livestreamed at : https://ccei.uconn.edu/wolff-new-venture-competition/. This event is open to the public.