Last year saw home care startups snag major funding rounds, winning over investors with plans to use technology to match caregivers with clients and bring more data collection and analysis to the sector. Now, these startups are evolving into more complex, differentiated companies.
The latest moves come from HomeHero, which on Tuesday announced it is launching a care management platform, converting all care providers from independent contractors to W-2 employees, introducing a new HIPAA-compliant mobile app, and bringing on board a chief medical officer and chief nursing officer.
The care management platform stands out, as it turns HomeHero from an almost exclusively consumer-facing company to one that also has a strong enterprise product, CEO and co-founder Kyle Hill told Home Health Care News.
“In order for home care to be the discharge of choice for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, a lot of other services have to accompany home care,” Hill said. “It’s not just personal care and companionship, but meal delivery, physician house calls, home modification, etc., that makes home care a better discharge.”
The care management platform, dubbed the HomeHero Collaborative, aims to bring all these services together. To create this platform, HomeHero is identifying potential partners in each of its markets and screening them, such as by interviewing their founders or directors. Typically, those companies that join the Collaborative offer a discount to HomeHero clients, such as a 15% to 20% coupon code.
While the Collaborative partners will differ from region to region, some examples include nutrition provider Mom’s Meals, Instacart, and pharmacy provider PillPack, Hill said. Other types of companies include handyman and cleaning services.
HomeHero’s data collection and workflow are what make the Collaborative effective, according to Hill. Caregivers in the home collect and report client-related data through the company’s new, HIPAA-compliant mobile app. Information includes physical observations, a client’s responses to surveys administered at the end of caregiving shifts, and medication related data.
“We take all that data, analyze it—we have a layer of predictive analytics—and assign patients a risk score,” Hill explained. “The highest risk for readmissions, that’s where we blend tech with the human touch. We have our chief nursing officer look at that and say, what’s going on here? Does the client need better nutrition? Let’s refer her to a meal delivery service so we can get her weight up a little bit.”
The end result should be clients who are remain healthier in the home and return to the hospital less frequently.
That should make HomeHero an attractive partner to hospitals and health systems, which are facing Medicare penalties if their readmission rates exceed certain thresholds, Hill said.
Currently, the focus is on working with providers such as hospitals and SNFs, and HomeHero soon will be announcing its initial Collaborative pilots. Ultimately, HomeHero may more directly seek to work with health systems and payors, according to Hill. That’s because the Collaborative not only could prevent readmissions but improve outcomes while lowering costs, and HomeHero could provide the kind of data that large payors avidly seek.
“Payors look at it more holistically,” Hill noted.
In addition to the Collaborative, hiring the clinical leaders is part of the larger evolution of HomeHero, he added. Gordon Glasgow, M.D., is coming on board as chief medical officer, and Susan Condie, Ph.D., MSN, will be chief nursing officer.
“It marks a significant shift from being a player in the tech market to more of a modified health care company,” Hill said. “It’s an exciting transition for us.”
Labor Secretary ‘Excited’
Like Honor, another of the high-profile home care startups, HomeHero’s caregivers now all will be direct employees of the company rather than contractors. The move comes as “gig economy” startups are facing scrutiny and criticism for using contract labor, creating a growing workforce without benefits and other advantages that come with being a W-2 employee.
When it comes to home care startups like HomeHero, the employment issue may be clearer because of the nature of the work. Rather than having a brief, transactional experience with each other, home care clients and their caregivers forge relationships that may last weeks, months, or longer.
It’s a distinction that Hill has discussed with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
“We had a meeting [with Perez] a couple of weeks ago, with a number of top on-demand startups in Silicon Valley,” Hill said. “[Perez] acknowledged how different the home care worker is from other on-demand workers. The relationship is nine to 12 months, if not longer, not delivering burritos. We are not the Uber for caregivers.”
Perez is “excited” about the direction of HomeHero, Hill added. He framed the decision to go W-2 as important for the whole industry, which chronically faces high turnover and recruitment challenges, even as demand for home care is set to increase.
“In order to attract enough qualified individuals to this business, you have to treat them like an engineer at a tech company,” he said. “They need the same health benefits, sick leave, etc. We really need to empower them in ways that encourage more people to enter the market.”
Given his position, Hill was “encouraged” to see that Honor made the same choice.
“I think it’s smart,” he said.
Written by Tim Mullaney