Tech start-up create efficiencies for assisted living communities
A casual encounter at a playground led to the launch of a startup aimed at streamlining the work of staff members and assisted living operators through technology. The August Health case offers a look at how technology is transforming the elderly industry.
Justin Schram, MD, and Erez Cohen come from very different backgrounds. But amidst casual conversations about their young children in the yard, they found a shared desire to build a modern operating and data platform specifically for assisted living.
“Operators are struggling to manage a deluge of paperwork, an increase in compliance requirements and still collect paper checks,” Cohen said. Meanwhile, related industry actors (pharmacy, referral, payers / healthcare providers) have no interface for exchanging information. Faxing is still state of the art. ”
They both founded August Health in 2020 to try to address this gap, building a platform to “unlock” essential workers, guiding them toward best practices, and building an underlying platform to “connect the industry”.
The startup, which began using its platform to manage care for more than 60 senior buildings in six months after the initial launch, recently raised a $ 15 million A-Series, led by venture capital Matrix Partners and General Catalyst, as well as for veterans of the Columbia industry. Pacific founder Dan Baty and Formation Capital founder Arnie Whitman. The company has raised $ 17.6 million so far, including $ 2.6 million in start-up money, and brought together a team of former operators from Apple, Google, Adobe and digital healthcare companies.
Schram, former medical director of California-based home care provider Landmark Health, said that with each home care visit to his patients, many living in elderly communities, his frustration increased for his inability to provide quality care because most records were on paper or “hostage” within inaccessible and outdated systems.
“It was hard to get drug lists, status code, what’s going on with a resident,” Schram said, adding that the paperwork consumed the time and energy of front-line workers trying to keep residents from going. in the emergency department.
“I saw the burn, the beating,” Schram said. “Much of what frustrated them could be addressed through automation, technology, a modern, sleek platform. Old people’s living systems worked like in 1950, or used old server-based software created for specialized nursing and thought of a later idea for assisted living “.
Today, a new generation of digital native operators is entering the field, along with families demanding technology they already use in every other aspect of their lives. Sensing an opportunity with baby boomers-led demographic change on the horizon, Schram left his clinical job to explore his idea.
“The old system cracked and the flaws became apparent and people realized that the old systems weren’t doing the trick,” he said.
Birth of a society
While pushing his son on a swing, Schram met Cohen, founder and CEO of Mapsense, a data mapping company that was acquired by Apple. Cohen, a Silicon Valley computer expert, had recently left his role as engineering director at Apple and was contemplating his next project.
The two began to talk and Schram shared his idea, which he was unable to execute.
“Justin opened my eyes,” Cohen said.
Looking at the long-term care industry, Cohen found that 74% of seniors ’communities did everything on paper: medications, allergies, diagnoses, care plans, schedules. Of the 26% of communities that used technology, he said, it was legacy technology normally designed for an adjacent industry.
“There really was no tool,” Cohen said.
Together, the two began visiting senior communities in the Bay Area, where Schram had patients, talking to staff, administrators, and families. Elderly communities, Cohen said, face problems related to resident care, staffing, transportation and employment, and families have no idea what is going on in a community.
“We learned a lot,” Cohen said. “He went back to everything, to every problem. There was no system to do it.”
In a community, for example, Cohen said, residents and staff members spent hours signing documents. After a resident moved in, this information was locked on paper forever and not translated into care.
“Communities are doing a good job recording data from a resident,” but they’re not doing anything about it, Cohen said. “Coming from a background in data science and analysis, it was shocking. Alarm bells rang in my head.”
Cohen said that was his “aha moment” and when he learned there was a business opportunity.
August Health signed its first customer, San Francisco-based CiminoCare, an owner and operator of a California nursing home focused on the assisted living and middle-aged memory care communities. The company worked closely with the organization and its staff to design a platform, while raising funds, hiring a designer, and building a business.
“We’ve built something around their daily workflows to meet their needs,” Cohen said.
CiminoCare CEO Mark Cimino said August Health was “basic,” saying Cohen and Schram showed him that CiminoCare could have a “very good” return on its investment by changing its software platform.
“We were impressed at the outset, even before they started with the product,” Cimino told McKnight’s Senior Living. “They immersed themselves and understood the industry. They can talk to almost anyone. ”
He cited “the spirit of where they come from and the popular attitude they have to make even the point or middle market operator feel special and the software will help them individually.”
Looking to the future
Schram said he looks at what the 2040 residential care community will look like and what technologies will come. Part of this technology is available today with virtual reality headsets to address loneliness, sensors to detect falls, and toilet seats to track infections. But if each emerging technology needs its own login and portal, it complicates use.
“You need a central platform to know who is in what room, what medications they are taking, who their emergency contact doctor is,” Schram said. “Essentially, we are the registration system. We are the platform to integrate them and be the interface that the community uses to enable technologies for the care of the elderly. ”
Cohen said discontent in the broader technology market fueled the interest of engineers and designers in joining his company.
“We are building a company that will have a demonstrable change in people’s lives,” Cohen said. “People are starting to see their parents reach an age where they need that support.”
Schram said that by working with the staff of customers ’buildings, they are achieving success measures that show that their platform is doing the intended job: facilitating the work of elderly employees.
The tool includes legal, clinical care, billing, compliance and regulations, a family portal, and best practices. “We’re not just trying to build other assisted living software,” Cohen said. “We’re building something that’s a different and bigger vision. It’s integrated into the service.”
Josh Allen, RN, director of Allen Flores Consulting Group, a living nursing consulting firm, has become an August Health animator, telling McKnight’s Senior Living that he was impressed with the simplicity of the platform.
“It’s very intuitive, easy to use and has a short learning curve for a new nurse, one of the biggest struggles in the industry,” she said. “It sounds like a simple thing, but if you have an EHR platform, a nurse can learn and feel comfortable in a few hours, it can have a very big impact on retention, rotation and job satisfaction.”
Allen serves as a sounding board for Schram and Cohen, providing weekly feedback on how to improve the product at every step.
The name August
While they have many stories behind the fact about how they came up with the August Health name, including that the domain name was available, Schram said he sees August as the season of someone’s life in which the person begins to think about the afterlife.
“The word August means venerable, respected,” Schram said. “That word for me resonates about how we feel about community residents and what older people are.”
The partners said they are working to build a national brand and company to have an impact on the lives of older people.
“We have a long way to go,” Cohen said. “We are still very focused on solving the problem of the elderly operator who runs a building and the staff of this community.
“There is a mile-long roadmap for building a business. There is opportunity after opportunity after opportunity “.