Data to Care About
In the last years of Robert Herzog’s mother’s life, he underwent a pivotal, transitional moment when someone he loved started to need a lot of care. “It’s a physical, financial, and emotional transition no one is prepared for,” he says.
With a background in nearly everything but healthcare, the businessman in Robert couldn’t help but recognize the unfortunate opportunity. “I saw how terrible the systems were for generating good information out of the home,” he says of the firsthand experience he had in coordinating home care for his ailing mother.
He says the status quo in home healthcare was that of a “black box which produced no useful patient data.” He saw many of his peers going through similar experiences with loved ones and the frustrations that came from dealing with care providers who were not trained to read the minds of the elderly and the ill. The information gap between patient and caregiver is a constant source of stress for family members and treating physicians, who are not privy to the ongoing data points needed to assess progress.
Robert speaks of the people who attended to his mother and the countless other sick and elderly who utilize home care every year. “While there are many terrific, talented aides, their computer and language skills are often limited.”
eCaring was developed to bring a solution to caregivers, patients, family members, and physicians alike with the touch of button.
The Advantage of a Newcomer
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few,” says Robert. With little experience in the industry, he wasn’t constrained by what already existed.
“We really looked at the practical realities of all the people involved from the people entering the information to the people using it.” Robert’s earliest product was an icon-based system that transcended language, and could overcome the limited skill sets that many people were dealing with. “That’s really where it started,” he says.
While Robert was keen to start with a tablet based system for the home, the slow-moving industry required he take pause. His first PC-equipped kiosk cost $1,200. While the early proof of concept was families taking care of families, Robert knew he needed a more sophisticated customer acquisition strategy.
At the same time, the U.S. was shifting with the advent of the Affordable Care Act. Today eCaring is more of an enterprise model and Robert’s customers are organizations in the managed care industry. “That really was a big transformation,” he says. “Early on, we got the icon-based system which liberates the home and turns it into a data-rich environment. The next step was to get it into the skill set and mindset of the managed care industry.”
eCaring enables between 500 and 1000 data points to be collected per patient, per month. Those data points help care providers and physicians get accurate pictures of a patient’s mental and physical state, vital signs, medication adherence, and plan-of-care adherence, among others.
“It’s an extraordinarily rich data set that is used to affect outcomes in a way that hasn’t been done before,” says Robert. “If [patients] are at home we help them stay at home. If they are at the hospital, the lengths of stay are shorter. If they are out of the hospital, hopefully you can avoid them going back in.”
eCaring’s data helps to prevent sudden changes or analyze trends over time so caregivers can pay attention to people in distress or heading towards distress.
Robert is definitely not alone in terms of an entrepreneurial trend towards solving healthcare by throwing technology at it. He admits that yes, there are a lot of tech-savvy apps trying to make a dent in a $3 trillion industry. “If you want to bend the cost curve in the U.S., you have to talk about the costliest, neediest people in the system.”
Many of eCaring’s end users (the patients) are low income and on Medicare/Medicaid, and often lack the connectivity and access enjoyed by the middle class. To this end, Robert has struck partnerships with providers like Verizon and Samsung to provide tablets and connectivity for those who need it most.
“I came out of the internet technology world where we think about latency in nanoseconds,” Robert says. The first time he saw a medical form related to home health data it said that the information within should be reviewed every 62 days. “That was their concept of time.”
Robert says that real-time data matters not only to those surrounding the patient but also to insurance companies. “Reimbursements are driven by patient satisfaction,” he explains. “If your revenues are driven by patient satisfaction and you don’t know what’s going on, you may be in trouble.”
eCaring’s data can protect health plans by providing the patient with engagement, quality, and satisfaction.
In terms of market sizing, Robert asks himself: Who is at risk? “We identify organizations and structures that are at risk for their patient populations,” he says. eCaring customers include healthcare plans that are administrating programs, state-sponsored programs like New York’s FIDA, all-inclusive care for the elderly, care and disease management companies, and healthcare agencies like BestCare.
Robert says it’s a large market with a lot of room for growth. “We’re keeping people out of the hospital every week. That feels good and it’s a really good business model.”