How Tech Startups Are Changing the Game for Senior Care
July 28, 2016 | Home and Family
By Lisa Wirthman
Taking care of an aging senior can be a challenging task. With the population of Americans who are 65 and older projected to increase to 86 million by 2050, it’s a challenge more and more families will need to solve.
But a new wave of health startups is here to help with mobile apps and online services designed to make it easier for families to care for their loved ones. Whether it’s finding a trustworthy caregiver, locating a doctor who makes house calls or getting prescriptions delivered, these startups have the answers.
Providing Accountable Caregiving
Kyle Hill, CEO of HomeHero, has firsthand experience with the challenges of finding quality senior care. In 2011, he watched his parents in Ohio struggle to find caregivers who were both accountable and trustworthy for his grandmother in Seattle. Eventually his father, a professor at Ohio State University, felt he had no other choice but to take a semester-long sabbatical to handle the issue in person.
A tech entrepreneur, Hill helped his father by creating a mobile app that increased accountability by enabling his grandmother’s caregivers to clock in and out of shifts and leave voice recordings about how the day went.
“Little did I know that I was building the early stages of what I do now at HomeHero,” he said.
Hill launched his company in 2013 to help families like his find and manage reliable in-home care for seniors through an online marketplace. Families can watch video interviews with pre-screened caregivers and send job requests. Caregivers can receive and respond to job offers on a mobile app that also logs their caregiving hours and their locations when they are on the clock. The app further provides task and medication reminders and enables caregivers to send audio recordings to family members.
HomeHero aims to stand out from other online caregiving sites by leveraging technology to provide trusted and affordable caregiving in addition to convenience.
“The key difference for us was going to be quality of care,” said Hill.
A Match Made by Algorithm
In addition to performing background and reference checks, the startup created a 15-point algorithm to match seniors with caregivers based on metrics like punctuality, years of experience and levels of certification.
“That’s really where we started to pull away from the pack,” he said, “being able to qualify the rankings of all these caregivers.”
HomeHero also provides 24-hour customer service by phone with live representatives, backup caregivers in case of emergencies and a comprehensive insurance policy to protect clients with $4 million in aggregate coverage for the company.
The startup offers set pricing on its website with rates charged to customers of about $22 an hour for caregiving. A HomeHero survey of care agencies in California found that about half did not disclose pricing over the phone.
“It is very frustrating when you’re trying to compare options and the agencies are withholding the price, so we felt we had to be transparent around that,” said Hill.
Because the company uses technology to lower the overhead costs of running an agency, HomeHero is also able to pay higher salaries than other agencies—from $17 to $18 an hour—in order to attract high-quality caregivers, he added. In contrast, many caregivers receive California’s minimum wage of $9 an hour (rising to $10 an hour in 2016), said Hill.
Over the past two years, the company has provided more than 1 million hours of home care and placed over 1,500 caregivers across four cities in California. The company plans to expand to Texas, Arizona and Florida soon and eventually operate nationwide.
Easing the Burden of Care
Beyond caregiving, other startups help families get care by delivering doctors right to your doorstep. Heal is a mobile app that sends a background-checked, licensed physician directly to your home for a flat-rate fee of $99. The service is available in Los Angeles and San Francisco and plans to expand to 15 major cities this year.
“Heal is about the old-fashioned house call,” said Dr. Renee Dua, a co-founder and chief medical officer of Heal, in a company blog. “It’s great to see that the future of technology enables us to get back to our roots.”
Supplementing that house call is PillPack, a startup launched in 2014 that organizes all prescription medications and delivers a shipment to your doorstep every two weeks. The pills arrive in single-dose packages printed with the date and time to take the medicine. The online pharmacy also provides automatic refills of your medications, and an app gives reminders of when to take them.
To protect elderly consumers from fraud and identify theft, True Link offers online tools that monitor their financial accounts for suspicious spending and provide alerts to family members. Seniors can also be issued a Visa card customized with financial safeguards such as preventing over-the-phone spending, blocking specific merchants or limiting ATM withdrawals.
By creating more transparent, affordable and accessible senior care, these tech startups are helping to ease the caregiving burden on families like Hill’s—whose parents still use the technologies he created—so they can focus on what’s most important.
“My dad has freed up a lot of his time to be a son again,” said Hill. And that may be the best perk of all.
Lisa Wirthman writes about business, sustainability, public policy and women’s issues. Her work has been published in The Atlantic.com, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Fast Company, Investor’s Business Daily, the Denver Post and the Denver Business Journal.
Originally published on Northwestern MutualVoice on Forbes.com.