New York-based Wellthy unveiled its services at the startup contest taking place during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2015 last week. The company helps the family and friends of elderly people with health problems to cope with all the daily challenges.
Since her mother was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis 25 years ago, Lindsay Jurist-Rosner has had to dive deep into the complexities of the US health system. Finding herself having to deal with the many gaps in the system, she had to take on the roles of carer, nurse, therapist and even lawyer in order to make her mother’s life easier on a day-to-day basis. When she came across other people who were having to cope with the same difficulties, she began to realise that this was a widespread problem and that the United States was sitting on a time-bomb. “The population is ageing and we’re all living increasingly long lives, but age brings difficulties with it and our health system is so complex,” she told the audience, pointing out: “Some people have to juggle 25 different medications and a dozen doctors, and as they have no single healthcare practitioner to look after them, their families have to take on this role. Our health system is based entirely on insurance and doctors’ prescriptions, but there are so many other things to manage besides! For example, as you get older, you will need to rearrange your house so that you can continue to move around easily.” So this young Columbia University (New York) and Harvard Business School graduate decided to launch a solution to fill the gap. The new company, named Wellthy, showcased its services at the startup contest which took place during the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2015 event last week. Wellthy launched at the beginning of the year, with a mission of helping to improve the daily lives of older people with health problems and their families, by offering them online assistance.
Day-to-day care and support
The website offers two services. The first is a database of experts listed by speciality and geographical area, which anyone can look at for free. In order to generate revenue, Wellthy is counting on its premium service, the company’s main business. For people who find themselves overwhelmed by the need to find doctors and therapists, Wellthy will recommend specialists with the right skills who live in their area, make appointments, help them to fill in their paperwork, find a carer who will come to their home, and help them adjust the physical arrangement of their home to their health situation. The customer pays a flat fee of $300 a month for this package of services and Lindsay Jurist-Rosner claims that most of those who try out the service are very happy with it. “Most of our customers come and see us for help to sort out one or two specific problems, but there’s always a new puzzle to solve, so in fact 70% of the people who started working with us in January are still there,” she told the TechCrunch Disrupt audience. Among these, she cited an elderly couple who both had health and financial problems: ‟They wanted to register for Medicaid [the US social healthcare programme for persons and families on a low income and with limited resources], but because the process is extremely complex they needed someone to help them. They were also looking for a physiotherapist who could come to their home and someone to provide daily assistance. They felt completely overwhelmed by all these problems.” Wellthy helped them to fill in the various forms to register for Medicaid, and took charge of recruiting the two providers they needed. Everything is done remotely; the Wellthy team talks to its customers on the phone or via online ‘chat’.
The service to be covered by medical insurance?
Based in New York, the company already currently offers its services in thirty US states and aims to go countrywide by the end of the year. Wellthy is also planning to explore new horizons. It has Japan, for instance, in its sights, as the Japanese population is ageing faster than in most other developed countries. A number of investors have already expressed their interest in the Land of the Rising Sun. Wellthy also plans to expand its range of services, which are currently targeted at elderly people, to children suffering from serious illnesses. Among the company’s customers is a mother whose son suffers from autism. “We see that the problems are exactly the same for the family and friends of the sufferer – juggling doctors and prescriptions, adapting the home to the patient’s needs, finding a home-carer, and so on.” The company is also negotiating with insurers to have its service covered by health insurance policies – and so become free of charge to the patient – a step which Lindsay Jurist-Rosner hopes to achieve during 2016. This dynamic young entrepreneur can certainly count on a generally positive environment for startups working in the healthcare sector in the United States. The amount of startup financing available to fledgling firms in this field has been steadily increasing since 2008.