Hospital and nursing home nurse-call systems are hardly an innovation. Hospital patients and nursing home residents in need of assistance have relied on bedside buttons to summon help for years.
But while the simple bedside call buttons of yesteryear did nothing more than turn on a light or sound a buzzer at a nursing station, nurse-call technology has evolved into sophisticated, software-driven communications and alert systems.
Caregivers who did not happen to be within sight or earshot of the old technology’s lights and buzzers could have missed a call or unnecessarily delayed responding. Software-guided and WiFi-enabled nurse-call systems can now contact nurses through cellphone-like devices.
The most up-to-date nurse-call systems can keep detailed records of care dispensed and help caregivers locate RFID-tagged personnel as well as equipment such as wheelchairs. RFID wander-alert tags also let memory-care unit nursing home and assisted living staff keep tabs on wandering residents.
When Myron and Ann Kowal started Special Care Systems LLC, hospitals and nursing homes largely relied on call systems that worked with lights and buzzers. Myron Kowal, then recently laid off from a job with a nurse-call equipment firm, saw the new world coming and was ready to take advantage of it, said his wife and company CEO Ann Kowal.
Special Care Systems positioned itself to profit from an industry just as it was about to take off, said Brian DiGiacco, a partner at Rizzo, DiGiacco & Hern CPAs PLLC, who has overseen Special Care Systems’ financial and compliance functions for the past eight years. He describes himself as the firm’s outsourced chief financial officer.
Two trends have fueled the market’s growth, DiGiacco said. First, nursing homes and assisted living communities have undergone a building boom as owners expanded their campuses and broke ground on multilevel senior living facilities to accommodate a wave of aging baby boomers. At the same time, innovations have recast the market as the relatively simple nurse-call systems morphed into communications systems specifically tailored to meet the needs of health care facilities.
“I have other clients in this industry, and I think we’re talking about a market that has not reached its peak yet,” DiGiacco said.
When the Kowals started the company, then called Special Care Technologies, in 2002, they worked out of an office in their Webster home, but now Special Care Systems has relocated to Irondequoit. The company employs 14 including herself, Ann Kowal said. Revenue grew 38 percent in 2014.
Its East Ridge Road space also houses Response Care Inc., a nurse-call and personal-alert equipment company headed by Myron Kowal, who left Special Care Systems to start Response Care in 2006, when he bought the facilities division of the equipment line’s previous provider.
“Response Care is one of our vendors,” Ann Kowal said.
Special Care Systems also sells and services other equipment lines, helping client organizations design, install and maintain systems fitted to their particular needs. Her company works with facilities as a consultant as well as a vendor, she said.
Special Care Systems supplies internal communications and response systems to facilities that include Rochester General, Unity, Newark-Wayne Community and Highland hospitals.
Nursing home customers include St. Ann’s Community and Jewish Senior Life, the area’s two largest multi-level senior-citizen residential community organizations, as well as a sampling of other area nursing home and assisted living facilities.
Ann Kowal sees Special Care Systems expanding eastward to the Capital Region and upper Hudson Valley.
The downstate market has its own peculiar dynamic. And for the near future at least, she is not ready to compete there, Kowal said.
While she sees Special Care Systems as mostly confining its sales to Upstate New York, Kowal has national ambitions of a sort.
Health care facilities from as far away as Texas have called in Special Care Systems to iron out bugs in systems they bought from other vendors. Her company could develop a good business as a troubleshooter, she said.
Special Care Systems LLC
Health care communications provider
Year founded: 2002
2015 ranking: 73
Top executive: Ann Kowal, president and CEO
Current employment: 14
The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2016 Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.
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