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Choppy AIM debut, but Avia is heading in the right direction

The transfer over to AIM from the Plus Market has been something of a roller coaster experience for Avia Health Informatics (LON: AVIA).

It made the leap last November, raising £1.5 million in the process while reversing into a firm called Plain Healthcare, which makes clinical decision support software.

The shares, initially listed at 60p each, rattled all the way up to 77p by March. But they have since reversed the gains and are now changing hands at a paltry 52.5p.

This is a source of obvious frustration for chairman Barry Giddings as the news flow has been positive as Avia has achieved its goals set out at the time of the AIM listing well ahead of schedule.

The products Avia sells under the Odyssey brand are interesting and promise to revolutionise the way people receive health advice.

They can be used for self-assessment on a touch screen device, or accessed via the internet by clinicians working over the telephone or directly with the patient. 

Avia’s high end database has been deployed by a local ambulance service to identify the most urgent cases and its software is also being utilised by receptionists and nurses in primary care centres.

The programmes are based on the pioneering work of leading academic Professor Jeremy Dale, who is a director of Avia, a major shareholder and one of the original founders of Plain.

The software powered the NHS Direct helpline until 2000, when the contract was awarded to Axa Assistance and MDS International.

The products rely on a Bayesian, or statistics-based system of questions and answers that mimics human reasoning processes. Unlike decision support programmes which use algorithms, this is intended to make Odyssey much more intuitive to use.

Its creators say that patient assessments with Odyssey are faster and safer. They also cut down unnecessary hospital referrals and treatment costs. 

MobileAssess is the latest addition to the Odyssey stable. And the first product in the range is a programme called Odyssey MarineAssess, which is specifically targeted at global cargo shipping companies.

It is designed to save considerable costs associated with diverting or evacuating of a vessel in the event of injury to or illness of a crew member.

Under Giddings’ chairmanship the Avia developers have taken what used to be a very clunky system and made it fit for the internet era.

It can be downloaded or stored remotely using cloud-based computing. Customers don’t even need an always-on connection to the net, which is helpful for users in remote or developing parts of the world.

Not just this, the Odyssey system can be sliced, diced and served up in any form you want it – from the very basic suite you might get as a mobile app, to the more complex, all singing, all dancing service provided to  insurance call centres.

The systems can be used on a standard PC, a tablet computer, or in the case of Odyssey

MarineAssess, will be delivered as bespoke computer system produced by Panasonic.

It will be available soon on the iPad, and a widget for the iPhone and other touch screen hand-helds is not far away.

The company has covered so much development ground in a very short space of time.

Yet this is still not appreciated by the market, which Giddings finds hard to understand.

“We said it would take us a year to develop the platform. We did it in six months,” the Avia chairman told Proactiveinvestors.

“We said it would take 12 weeks to get the platform onto the touch screen. We have done it in six weeks. So in 32 weeks we have done what we said we would do in a year and a quarter,” the Avia chairman told Proactiveinvestors.

“We have done this to budget (in most cases under budget) and it works.”

The Odyssey system is currently available in five languages – English, German, French, Italian and Dutch.

The plan soon is to make it available in Mandarin, the business language of China, Spanish,
Portuguese and “possibly Russian”, Giddings revealed.

This will make the Odyssey platform a truly international product.

Currently the company has two strategic partners – one in the US, the other in Asia.

By the end of next year, Giddings predicts the number of partnerships will be in double figures, ensuring in the process that the group is profitable.

And five years down the road “we should have 60 to 70 strategic partners”, the Avia chairman said.

The company simply doesn’t have the cash, or the desire to set up a sales-force in each individual territory.

Instead the team will be provided by the local partner, who might be a software company, a drugs firm or even an entrepreneurial GP.

The partner might then have a network of re-sellers that goes out and finds yet more business.

Giddings won’t talk directly about the revenue share out agreement with these partner firms and individuals, except to say “we get the lion’s share”.

Disclosure: The author holds no positions in the company