It’s always a pleasure to chat with Homage’s co-founder and CEO, Gillian Tee, as she takes a differentiated look at how technology can help the elderly and other vulnerable people. According to the United Nations, people 65 and over are the fastest growing age group in the world. At the same time, there is an acute shortage of care workers in many countries, which is made more difficult by the high burnout rates at work.
“It’s absolutely one of the most important social and global issues,” said Tee during her disrupt session (the video is embedded at the end of this article).
Homage’s was founded in Singapore four years ago The platform uses a matchmaking engine to help families find the best caregivers, while the telehealth platform offers services such as online medical consultations and screenings. It has since expanded in Malaysia and yesterday announced a new strategic investment from Infocom, one of the largest healthcare technology companies in Japan. The partnership will enable Homage to accelerate the expansion of its care and telehealth platform in the Asia-Pacific region.
Before starting Homage, Tee co-founded Rocketrip in New York. Rocketrip, a ticket booking platform created to reduce corporate travel costs, attracted investors such as Google Ventures, Y Combinator and Bessemer Ventures and raised more than $ 30 million. But in 201
Tee knew she wanted to start another company, but she didn’t choose to tackle the nursing area right away. This idea came about when several of her close relatives were diagnosed with chronic illnesses that required special care.
“We didn’t know how to deal with this, or how to even start thinking about what was required, and that’s when I realized, wow, I had to get trained on a lot of things,” said Tee.
Many families around the world face the same challenges as population age and social dynamics that family members who traditionally would have cared for relatives cannot because they have moved away or have to work.
Families often rely on word of mouth or agencies to find caregivers, a complicated, time-consuming, and emotionally difficult process. Homage uses matching algorithms to make it easier. One of the most unique things about the platform is how detailed it is. Providers are screened not only based on their certifications and the type of care they offer (e.g. long-term care, relief care, physiotherapy, or rehabilitation), but also based on specific skills.
For example, many patients require mobility aids so Homage assesses what type of transfers they can safely perform. Then the matching technology decides which nurses are best suited for a patient. By making the process more efficient, Homage also lowers costs by making its services more accessible to more people while increasing pay rates for providers.
This corresponds to a further goal of Homage: expanding the care pool in its markets and retaining talent. Another way to address the issues is to put the nurses in the right jobs on their platform, organize training programs, and make sure they are not over-planned and flexible. For example, some supervisors on the platform have long-term contracts, while others only work with Homage customers a few days a week.
A holistic approach to “Age-Tech”
In June, Homage started its telemedicine service. The platform called Homage Health has been in development for some time but has been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote consultations fit into the “high-touch” or personal care side of the company as many patients require regular screenings or consultations with doctors and specialists. For patients with limited mobility or weakened immune systems, it is easier to include routine visits in their schedule.
Hardware, including wearable sensors, also holds promise to detect potential health problems like heart disease before they need acute treatment. One challenge, however, is making it easier for patients to integrate into their daily lives or to make it easier to carry, said Tee.
Overall, it is Homage’s mission to create a holistic platform that covers many care needs. The new partnership with strategic investor Infocom will help move this forward as the company, whom Homage has spoken to for several years, according to Tee, works with around 13,000 facilities in Japan, including senior citizen homes and hospitals. Infocom develops software for a variety of industries including drug, hospital and medical record management, and medical imaging.
Infocom also operates its own care platform and the partnership with Homage will enable the two companies to work together and reach more patients. Japan has one of the largest elderly populations in the world. Tee said at least half a million nurses will need to be mobilized in Japan within the next five to ten years to meet demand.
“We need to start building the infrastructure so that people can access the kind of care services they need and so we are really aligning with Infocom on that mission,” said Tee. “They also have a platform for nurses to apply for jobs in Japan, and they see the Homage model as particularly applicable because it is also curated.”