Sandy Jen: Rethinking Home Care @ Talks at Google (Transcript)

Because we have all this technology, we might require one human to do this instead of 10. And so when you have that, you can save a lot of that time to go do other interesting, innovative features to help with care delivery. Technology is definitely used to scale, to make better care, better quality. But at the same time, we have to recognize that it can’t replace humans. And so at the end of the day, the human to human experience is still the end product.

JORGE CUETO: You mentioned that you provide training for your care pros, so what does that training encompass?

SANDY JEN: It can vary to basic skill sets. Like how do you lift and transfer someone who’s bedridden out of bed into a chair? How do you take someone from their bed to a toilet? There are things like, OK, what is the best way to assist someone in this particular task? And so we can also do things like, oh, if this person has Parkinson’s, these are specific tools and techniques you can use to help maneuver them physically. If someone has dementia, here are techniques and generally accepted ways to communicate or to elicit feedback from those folks. And so a lot of it is skill-wise, but also, how do you basically interact with different types of people? Because a lot of our clients– their conditions vary greatly, so it’s not like one bucket fits all.

JORGE CUETO: And in terms of the composition of your audience, are you looking at mainly people who are soliciting care for their family members, or actually seniors themselves who are asking for services for themselves?

SANDY JEN: Yeah, it’s both. We thought in the very beginning that we’d have more what we call adult children. It’s sort of a child or a nephew or a family member then responsible for someone who is older. But we also have folks who just want care for themselves. They recognize that they want to stay at home. They don’t want to go to a nursing home or facility.

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And so having a little bit of additional help is actually really useful. So yeah, it just really varies. But we definitely have more folks who are getting care for themselves than we originally thought.

JORGE CUETO: So that, again, goes to debunk that myth that seniors don’t really engage with technology, right? Because they need to have some understanding in order to reach you in some ways.

SANDY JEN: Yeah, they do have to find us. But at the same time, we don’t require any technology to use Honor. That was a very conscious point. So if you don’t want to touch a computer, you don’t want to use an app, you don’t have to. Most of our customers call us.

JORGE CUETO: So then you’re also seeing how maybe you can leverage old technology using new technology for the platform, but for the interface, relying on the older.

SANDY JEN: Yeah, and so those trends will change as well. So our current demographic– a lot of folks just want to call. And also, you think about if you’re an adult child, and let’s say your mom falls– which is a very common entryway into home care– you go from knowing nothing about home care to someone saying your mom needs eight hours of care a day. And you’re like, oh my god, what the hell is home care? And so you need to figure out what’s going on, and you’re in a very emotional state. And so when you’re in a very emotional state, you’re not going to pick up your iPhone and be like, OK, I want care, click click click.

You’re going to want to call somebody. And so we have a dedicated team of people who answer those calls to make sure that people can walk people through that process. At same time, though, if you have gotten care for a while, you know what home care is, and all you want to do is press some buttons, you can do that as well. So there are different options. And that will probably change.

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One of our goals is to make Honor take care of us when we’re old. So obviously, when we’re older, the times may be that no one wants to call and everyone wants to use an iPhone or an Android phone or whatever. So we can kind of see the trends coming into the industry, which is a nice side effect of not working in younger social media stuff. Because I don’t know what the next 17-year-old wants on her phone, but I do kind of know what the next 50-year-old wants. So that’s been kind of an interesting change.

JORGE CUETO: And in terms of scaling– so I see this in-home elderly care as being something that requires a lot of trust built over time and something that people really have to open themselves up to and be comfortable with. So how, as you’re scaling, do you maintain that sense of trust and comfort?

SANDY JEN: Yeah. I think the biggest thing you can do is also always frame your product and your team in the right way. So when I said we don’t think of ourselves as a tech company, but we think of ourselves as a services company, that’s the core. That’s the mission.

And so trust is huge. I think a lot people are like, oh, why don’t you just do childcare too? Unlike childcare, where there’s usually a hand-off where you’re physically present, you give your child to a babysitter or a nanny, and then at the end of the day the nanny returns the child to you, that doesn’t always happen with senior care because you generally don’t live with your parents at this age, or you’re across country, or you’re not in the same area. And so the trust part– it’s kind of both human and tech.

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