Digital health and remote patient monitoring company Connect America announced Tuesday it has signed an agreement to acquire 100Plus, another remote monitoring provider that uses an AI-enabled virtual assistant called Ava for an undisclosed amount.
Connect America, which is owned by private equity firm Rockbridge Growth Equity, focuses on seniors and other vulnerable populations. The company’s CEO, Janet Dillione, said the acquisition made sense because 100Plus’ tools also target those groups, and their workforce is “fantastically talented.”
“They found a way to use technology in a very seamless way that’s comfortable for people, which I think is very hard to do,” she said. “And we deal with that a lot. The technology we have, it’s not always the shiniest widget. Quite frankly, it has to work with the workflow of the person at home and the workflow of providers.”
WHY IT MATTERS
Remote and digital senior care could become a larger market segment in healthcare as the baby boom generation, which was only surpassed in size by Millennials in 2019, gets older.
By 2030, all baby boomers will be over age 65. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2034, for the first time in the country’s history, adults ages 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18.
Older adults also prefer to stay in their homes as they age. A 2020 Rock Health report found 77% of people over age 55 said they want to age in place, but only 50% thought they could.
“To meet these new challenges – and opportunities – we need transformative innovation in senior care,” the authors wrote in the report. “Digital health is poised to offer critical solutions.”
The picture is complicated by a strained frontline healthcare workforce, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post survey, 62% of frontline healthcare workers said worry or stress due to COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.
And 56% of frontline workers who care for patients in their homes and 58% who work in a nursing home or assisted-care facility said their employer was “falling short” when it came to providing extra pay for those working in high-risk situations.
Meanwhile, pay is already low for the workers who help an increasingly elderly population stay in their homes. Home health aides, a rapidly growing job where overall employment is expected to grow 34% from 2019 to 2029, earned a median pay of $13.02 an hour in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
THE LARGER TREND
Other players providing remote monitoring services for seniors include Best Buy, which announced in March it was bringing emergency-response services to the Apple Watch, and Amazon, whose personal assistant Alexa allows family members to check in on their aging family members from afar.
Just last month, Connect America announced the acquisition of Royal Philips’ Aging and Caregiving business for an undisclosed sum.
“We knew that we had to continue to expand the platform to get different types of digital solutions,” Dillione said.
Ava, 100Plus’ AI-supported chatbot that assists with patient outreach and device setup, was also a draw for Connect America. Creating technology for seniors means you have to consider their specific needs, Dillione said. They might have vision or hearing problems, or they might not have access to WiFi.
“To be able to design an AI assistant technology so that the adoption is very easy, it’s cellular, there’s no complexity, there’s education, there’s onboarding that’s delivered in a very consumer-friendly way,” she said.
“So I think they’ve really done a great job, using technology to address this. These are just the intransigent issues that really drive down the adoption of technology.”
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