I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on technology for aging, along with Honor founder Seth Sternberg and CareTicker founder Chiara Bell during the HX360 event at HIMSS 2016. (HX360 is a “conference within a conference” focused on innovation and C-suite leadership.) The panel was hosted by Jeff Makowka, Director of Market Innovation for AARP, and ranged from topics on entrepreneurship and whether there is a venture rush to technology for aging now to approaches for delivering care for aging in place.
Interestingly, all three panelists were inspired by personal experiences to found our companies. For me, it was poor discharge instructions and lack of continuity of care when my mom was released from 6 months in a long-term care facility. For Seth and Chiara, it was trying to figure out how to enable their parents to age at home. It’s a classic entrepreneurial model to experience a problem and try to find a solution to it, provided the market is big enough, and this market certainly is based only on demographics of the aging baby boomers. Seth and I both made the leap from technology, Seth from Google, and me from Microsoft, and Chiara from a long history in healthcare and homecare.
Honor’s $20M in funding lead by Andressen Horowitz is proof that Silicon Valley is paying attention to homecare, which can be viewed as important from two aspects: first we need innovative and new thinking to approach these challenges, and second these solutions could require a lot of money. (Although I would posit that we need patient capital in this space, something that Silicon Valley is not always known for. Interestingly, the same week as the panel Dave Chase and Andrey Ostrovsky posted a piece on why Silicon Valley does not belong in homecare. Maybe they should be on next year’s panel.)
The three panelist companies took similar approaches in using technology to scale and empower the people in the process, both patients and caregivers. For Wellpepper it’s about empowering the patient to follow their care plans and get remote support from the healthcare team. Honor and Careticker are more focused on the patient and their homecare team, whether that is professionals or family members. What was similar in the approach was providing information in real-time to the people who need it, and treating everyone in the process with respect. Honor does this by ensuring homecare workers are paid a living wage. Careticker does this by recognizing for people to age in place, the family caregivers need the right information and supports and Wellpepper does this with patient-centered and highly-usable software that is not dumbed down for the aging.
We were perhaps the outlier on this panel as our solution is not aimed specifically at the elderly. However, you could say we are the most representative of the way we need to approach the challenge: we need solutions that are designed with empathy, putting the patient first, and are not categorizing people into “young” and “old.” Well designed solutions and products should can address a broad spectrum of users, and we need to treat those aging in our population as another audience in this spectrum.