Senior Healthcare Promises Big Money For New Technologies And Startups

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The holidays inherently make us think more about our family and loved ones. Many of us have older family members who struggle with their health. A few days ago, a colleague of mine told me about her grandmother who is in her late 80s and in a hospital miles away. She was very upset because she couldn’t just pick up the phone and talk to her or ask the assisted living facility for information about her health. In the age of smart phones and realtime social networking, not being able to get simple health information on a loved one is inconceivable.

Today, according to the United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs, there are 1.6 billion people worldwide over the age of 60. In United States, this number is near 71 million—or 25% of the population—and it is growing three times the rate of the rest of the population (ages 0-59). The same report indicates that, in the U.S., 25% of this population live alone—putting them at much greater risk for accidents as they age.

Shockingly, the healthcare industry hasn’t kept pace with the aging population. Maysam Ghovanloo, a Georgia Tech professor of Electrical and Biomedical Engineering, feels one of the costliest problems facing seniors today is medication compliance. Many seniors are taking multiple medications each day with varying time and side effects—and it can often be difficult for them to track what they need to take and when. His team is tackling this problem through smart pills and wearable technology, but there are many other healthcare challenges facing seniors.

Fortunately, it’s not only universities undertaking aging healthcare. Major tech companies (Amazon, Google and Apple, etc.) and investors alike are hot on healthcare technologies —especially those that improve senior healthcare outcomes. Most VCs have dedicated teams for healthcare innovation and products. Consider three top VCs: Khosla Venture backs 34 startup companies in healthcare; Norwest Venture Partner has 22 investments; Andreessen Horowitz backs 16 companies in Bio (healthcare).

Tech companies are also hedging their bets on senior health. Best Buy recently made one of the biggest deals to date in healthcare with its purchase of GreatCall, a health technology company that focuses on seniors. The retailer paid $800M for the company that serves some 900,000 customers. GreatCall offers mobile products and wearables that connect users to agents who can hook them up with family caregivers or send emergency medical help.

This transaction is unique – it actually set the M&A price for this segment for about $1,000 per subscribers. That’s huge for a company with one million subscribers—the M&A price would be about $1B. This should be a signal to all entrepreneurs that the healthcare technology market is hot. If you build it, the buys will come.

Which brings me to healthcare technology startups. There are numerous emerging companies with promising technologies for seniors.

CES 2019 – Jon Castor and Johnson Agogbua JOHNSON AGOGBUA

One that particularly impresses me is Leeo, a company just south of San Francisco that received the CES 2019 Innovation Award this week for its work to help seniors. I recently met with the Leeo Executive Chairman, Jon Castor, and CEO, Johnson Agogbua, who both joined the company because of their passion for senior healthcare.

Their product, the Leeo Smart Alert, is a sensor-based monitor that can alert the subscriber (or their family or friends) when there are environmental or health related issues. The technology is easy to buy—it’s available on Amazon—and it currently connects some 10,000 subscribers to personal networks of family or friends.

According to Castor, “Mutuality between family members is the key value we bring to the markets. Leeo users can easily create a trusted network of family members and friends and be connected at all times, sharing their emotional and physical well being while watching out for each other.”

Agogbua added that the key is the ability to recognize and analyze user activities at home or away, so family or emergency responders can be notified if something out of the norm is detected. The combination of sensor and app-based technology, along with trusted family and friends networking, is the effective way to help seniors now.

This is just one of many companies that are creating value and reshaping the outlook of senior healthcare. The door is wide open for startups ready to get into the game. Those companies that can effectively deploy solutions that combine AI, the Internet of things (IoT), social networks, sensors, voice recognition and machine vision to enhance healthcare for seniors will not only be successful—they will change the world for all of us. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but one day soon our parents, grandparents—and, eventually, us—will benefit from improved healthcare and better ways to stay connected with loved ones.

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