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Honor launches caregiver on demand service for seniors

seth sternbergThis story was updated from an earlier version

Honor, a digital health startup that launched an online caregiver booking service earlier this year, has added a speedier offering to provide on-site assessments for seniors discharged from the hospital and other, one-off functions, according to a company statement.

“We will now guarantee that we can get you an assessment visit within two hours,” CEO and Co-founder Seth Sternberg said in a phone interview about its Honor Now service. He explained the move came in response to a big demand from users. “We thought our service would always be about a scheduled service…Not only did [customers] not want it on-schedule, they wanted it when they needed it.”

Sternberg also talked about its new service at the Louisville Innovation Summit in a discussion with Jody Holtzman of the AARP.

The caregiver on demand service will only be offered in the San Francisco Bay area, the only region where Honor currently operates, though it plans to expand to other areas in the near future.

To provide this on demand service, Sternberg admitted the company had to change its operational model. “We had to have enough care professionals so that we could fulfill the demand consistently,” he said. “We listen to what people need. Every three days we release a new model.”

Among the sources of user demand were hospitals. Care managers and discharge planners want to ensure patients who need it have someone who can provide home care before they are discharged.

“They need to know Honor can be there in two hours,” he said.

About half of its customers are the seniors themselves, and the rest are the seniors adult children. Sternberg said roughly 60 percent of the people Honor serves have dementia. Asked how seniors, especially those with dementia, feel about having someone new each time they need extra help, he said:

“One thing we optimize for is to keep the same person or small group of people serving any individual customer. When it is ad hoc care we can’t do just one person, but we try to optimize it using only a few people. We had a lot of people calling us saying they had a rapport with one caregiver and wanted her to come back. But we were built that way. “We use technology to try to optimize” our services.

Asked how difficult it will be to provide this service when it expands to other markets, Sternberg conceded that it will force it to be careful it has what it needs to scale its business, particularly an adequate number of support staff. he said it may not add the on-demand service right away when it does move to other regions.

“We need to make sure the quality in market number 2 is as good as San Francisco. We need to be very careful of the operational burden of launching in new markets is not too high to innovate.”

Although he declined to say how many caregivers it employs, Sternberg said it has 30 staff in other roles.

Honor’s seems like the kind of service the AARP is interested in seeing more of. At Health 2.0, AARP Innovation Technology Director Jeffrey Makowka said it was working on a study focused squarely on the needs of informal family caregivers who may be Millennials, members of Generation X or older called Care Innovations Frontiers. It is also doing a caregiver survey with HITLab as part of its Project Catalyst program at Health 2.0.

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