It is deplorable that technology has done little to help people in taking care for older relatives even as decades of medical breakthroughs have improved the quality and length of life.
However, automating caregiver-family matches, post customer feedback, creating schedules and making payments more convenient is being attempted at present with the use of technology by several startups who aim to ease the burden of families burdened with taking care of older members in the family.
With participation from 8VC and Syno Capital and led by New York-based venture firm Thrive Capital, Honor Technology Inc. is one of such startups which announced a $42 million capital infusion. The funds are planned to be used by Honor to expand into new markets and continue improving its technology and present a better competition to traditional home-health agencies in San Francisco and Los Angeles, whom it has been challenging since in past year. $20 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz had been previously raised by the two-year-old startup.
At present, brick-and-mortar agencies dominate in-home care. According to Chief Executive Officer Sandy Markwood of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging Inc., none of its more than 600 member agencies, listed in its elder-care locator, is a technology startup.
Seeking to match customers with care providers based on online profiles are some companies like Care.com Inc. and startup CareLinx Inc. which are basically online marketplaces. Such companies they leave training and education to the care professionals and reviews, scheduling and payments to customers even though marketplaces perform basic background checks. Others employ caregivers and work directly with customers like Honor and HomeHero Inc.
“Any new company says they are a tech company. You have to look at who and what’s behind it,” Sternberg said. After Google acquired Meebo Inc., a social media platform he co-founded, Sternberg had been a product management director in the company.
Including human insights into the algorithms underpinning operations is the key to Honor, he said. Ensuring only professionals with experience caring for people with dementia get those assignments are some of the things that are obvious. Experience taught Honor employees other things which were passed on to its engineers over time.
Logistics distribution has to be calculated based on location, traffic patterns, hours requested and skills required by clients and Honor has invested heavily in this program, Sternberg said. According to Markwood, for seniors, especially those with cognitive problems, consistency of care and familiarity with routines are essential.
Markwood added that finding the right person trumps finding a person “right now” due to the trust factor and intimate nature of the job.
Hiring and retaining care professionals are his top priority, Sternberg said. He added that even though by automating processes he can charge customers roughly 10 percent less than traditional agencies, technology is second of the thrust areas for him.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2040, 82.3 million would by the number of people aged 65 and older and 98.2 million by 2060 from 46.2 million in 2014. And according to the most recent survey by the AARP, 90 percent of those seniors want to remain in their homes as long as possible.
Hence the market for online older care is expected increase which is a driving force for these star-ups.
(Adapted from Bloomberg)