"Rise in the presence of the aged, and show respect for the elderly."

Henry Yip, DriveABLE CEO

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Henry Yip, CEO DriveABLE

Henry Yip, CEO DriveABLE

Henry Yip, DriveABLE CEO Henry Yip came to Canada from Shanghai in 1969 on a one-way plane ticket, and landed a successful business career that took him to the CEO post at an Edmonton company.

Knowing hardly any English, and with only $2,000 in his pocket, his drive for a better education helped him succeed in a foreign country.

“In those days, Hong Kong had only one university … for a lot of us that wanted to go to university, the only chance was to go overseas,” said Yip.

Today, Yip is CEO of DriveABLE, which evaluates motorists whose ability to drive safely may be compromised by medical conditions or medications. The majority of them are 65 to 80 years old.

Running a small company is quite a change for Yip, who spent 30 years working with Canada’s major telecommunications firms, rising as high as vice-president.

He saw potential in DriveABLE and when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped on-board, eager to utilize his business experience. He was initially approached by former colleague, Kerry Brown, CEO of Foundation Equity. Brown hired Yip to get the company off the ground.

DriveABLE uses a specially designed road course, with attributes and markers that evaluate a driver. The test subject also undergoes an assessment on a computer program to determine mental and reactionary capabilities, peripheral vision, logic, and discrimination between objects and movements. An external company wrote the program. But the tests were developed by Allen Dobbs, a professor of psychology at the U of A, who founded the company in 1998.

Dobbs learned that doctors were facing increasing demand for driving assessments of patients. He was surprised to discover there was nothing available that is based on scientific assessment. Dobbs decided to do his own research and assess drivers with medical conditions.

Based on a sample of 1,000 test subjects, Dobbs found that the 65-to-80 age group of drivers is growing rapidly, and that 25% have some form of illness that impacts their driving capabilities.

“That trend is going to continue because of the baby boomers,” said Yip.

And that’s something that Yip is counting on, to help DriveABLE grow.

Even though the company already has 29 testing centres in Canada and the U.S. – with five in Alberta – Yip says the company is still very small.

“We’re still consuming cash at this point,” he said, pointing out the company has no debt, and runs on private investments.

DriveABLE receives about 30 referrals a month from doctors or insurance companies.

“We’re not even catching 5% of what should be done,” said Yip, adding “the word is not out there yet” about the program.

One barrier is the cost, which can be as high as $475 in a city like Toronto and which is not covered by health care or insurance.

“Doctors are reluctant to cause their patients any more cost than they have to. They’re not as easily ready to refer for an assessment,” said Yip.

But doctors are becoming more familiar with DriveABLE and are being more proactive, he said.

“When we first started, 75% of drivers tested failed. What that told us is that doctors were waiting until the last minute. But that ratio is becoming more 50-50.”

DriveABLE only does assessments and does not offer driver training.

The company also sells its software for $15,000 to hospitals, driving schools and some independent businesses. They provide training to staff and give them all the tools to do the assessment. Once the observations are recorded, they are sent back to DriveABLE for scoring, at $60 each. Each scoring is done mechanically by a computer program, with results produced in a matter of a few minutes, said Yip.

Today, the privacy act would prevent a researcher from doing the kind of research Dobbs did 10 years ago, because of restricted access to information.

May 29, 2005

Adapted from Edmonton Sun article. Original Article

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