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OPINION

Bringing home care up to scale

Home care is a growing, but fragmented industry. It needs to scale up along with the generation it serves.

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Globe Staff/Adobe

If there’s one concept the baby boomer generation is intimately familiar with, it’s going big. They’ve been doing everything big — ”at scale,” as folks like to say in the tech industry — their entire lives: entering school, joining the workforce, marrying, retiring, and now, aging. Per the US Census, 10,000 of them have turned 65 every day since 2010. By 2030, the youngest among them will be over 65.

It’s on us to serve our largest generation as they enter this final phase of their lives. And compassionate and demographically savvy small business owners are answering the call. Over 20,000 nonmedical home care businesses are currently operating independently in the United States. That’s also the challenge. It’s a highly fragmented market with many ways of operating. Technology can help streamline operations, standardize care, and provide better jobs to caregivers and better care to older adults.

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Running a home care agency is hard. Agencies face enormous responsibility for their clients, providing assistance with activities of daily living like preparing meals, going for walks, or even getting in and out of bed. They’re also responsible for creating quality employment for their caregivers in homes where they can perform at their best. The fragmented state of the industry makes this harder. If an agency could scale its business, it could provide caregivers with enough hours, working with clients whose needs best match their skill sets, schedules, and geographic locations. But they can’t scale without enough caregivers. And caregivers can’t stick around without stable employment. If a client cancels service, the caregiver probably will be forced to find another agency to fill the hours they need. It’s a classic catch-22.

The answer is technology that can help a care agency find the right client for a caregiver’s particular skills and help fill that caregiver’s schedule. Do that well — care for the caregiver — and agencies will be able to better care for their clients.

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That was what my cofounders and I set out to do when we started Honor. At our core, we’re a service company. We develop technology to strengthen the relationships between our caregivers — we call ours care professionals — and clients. Technology helps us learn which caregivers are right for which clients, and vice versa. We ask care professionals for their preferences up front, and learn over time where they perform best and what clients respond well to. Our technology then helps us consistently present care professionals with opportunities that are a good fit. This gives them agency to choose their schedules and their clients. The goal is to make care professionals happier in their work, perform better, and stay with us longer.

In home care, we hear variations on this story all the time: “We started our agency after our parents needed care and we couldn’t find the right services for them.” The vast majority of people get into this business for all of the right reasons. They want to help their communities and provide a better aging experience than their parents had. The limitation is that they can’t provide this great care experience to everyone, since many agencies are still operating in an analog world. Add a constantly-improving technology layer to streamline operations and standardize care, and those agencies can suddenly offer their local and personal care experience at scale. And, ultimately, provide better care and better jobs.

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Our society has a huge challenge before us — to care for the generation that did everything at scale. We owe our own moms and pops this kind of innovation. If we do it right, our own generation, and those after us, will reap the benefits as well.

Seth Sternberg is cofounder and CEO of Honor.