The Helper Bees raises $6M to digitize the home care space

Steven Loeb · July 22, 2020 · Short URL:

The company works with insurance companies to help them offer these services to their customers

According to data from AARP, more than 20 percent of Americans have acted as caregivers over the last year, whether that be for an adult or for a child with special needs; that's around 53 million people, up from 43.5 million in 2015. As anyone who has been a caregiver knows, it's a huge job that takes a lot of time and effort. Frankly, it's a job that many people simply can't handle on top of their other responsibilities. They often need professional assistance, yet actually finding someone is not only incredibly difficult, but also paying for it is extremely expensive. 

That's where The Helper Bees comes in; the company works with insurance companies to not only lower the cost of care but to make it easier for patients to find the right caregiver for them.

"When we talk about home care, there's a non-medical aspect and there's a medical aspect. Predominantly, we play in the non-medical area. We choose our approach to solving this particular problem by taking more of a holistic approach and what I mean by that is addressing all of the different areas that would require somebody to need home care. So, an injury or a chronic issue or age related issue. And also, when you zoom out, there's quite a bit of other side effects of this, where you have social isolation, depression, caregiver issues, family issues," The Helper Bees CEO Dr. Char Hu told me in an interview.

"Our solutions are tailored to address every single component within what I've been calling the caregiver journey, which is not only going through how to identify and access great care resources, but there's also other external factors that can help improve wellness and prognosis."

On Wednesday, the company revealed that it raised $6 million in Series A funding led by Silverton Partners, with participating from Austin Impact Capital, Techstars and strategic angel investors. This brings its total funding to around $7.8 million. Silverton Partners has previously invested in insurtech companies such as The Zebra and Spot.

"We're super excited to have Silverton on board. They have a great track record when it comes to insurtech companies, even though Austin, where we’re based, is not often known for insurance companies, it's interesting how lately there's some really great brands that are coming out," Hu said.

Since launching in 2017, The Helper Bees has partnered with over 12 insurance clients, most of which are large companies in the Fortune 300. 

"Insurance companies have needs, particularly on the customer or claimant experience side of things, for their customers or policyholders. When they become claimants, typically sometimes negative has happened; just like with auto insurance, when you might have gotten into an accident, that's how you interact with your insurance carrier," Hu explained.

"Our carrier partners are really focused on when this negative event has occurred. How do they make that process frictionless in order to get you your care, get you the money to pay for the care? So, when you interact with the insurance carrier and, through us, interact through your care options, how can they improve that experience?"

Some of The Helper Bees' products include digital claims processing tools, taking what is still mostly a paper-based process and digitizing so that claimants can more easily invoice and gett paid. The company also offers a nursing assessment tool, so if a potential claimant needs an assessment done, the company is able to do that via video or telephone, rather than in person. 

"They can carry out an assessment on what's going on in their life, how does their home look, any issues with mobility. So, it a very comprehensive and holistic view on the care recipient environment," said Hu.

The Helper Bees can also its platform to help people identify caregivers; for example, a claimant might needs to file a home care claim, and one of the company's carrier partners might refer them to The Helper Bees platform, where they can select and hire a caregiver directly. One of the company's latest offerings is its Care Concierge program, which provide experts to guide claimants on how to age in place.  

"All of those have the underpinnings of digitization or digital claims management, if you will. So, we acquire a tremendous amount of data and now we're starting to use this data to promote different interventions. We have an industry leading database on, essentially, how do people age or how do they receive care in their home," Hu said.

"What I mean by that is, we can identify balance issues beforehand, medication issues, even depression because the carriers in the home are interacting with our app, and telling us, ‘Hey, this particular person needs this sort of care.’ And so as we built in these auto triggers we can tell when utilization goes up and need increases." 

All of this results in cost savings for both the carrier and the claimant, as the platform is able to save around 20 percent versus a traditional home care agency model. In real dollars, that comes out to be about $11,000 annually per claimant. That helps the carriers and the claimants, as they will often have to pay for at least part of the care as a co-pay. 

When it comes to caregivers, part of the goal is to give them flexibility in choosing their work, as typically their job involves temporary staffing, where they might be sent to a different job each day. 

"Something that we've been really passionate about is giving choice back to the caregiver to select the job, and for the care recipient. We have this whole notion of the double opt in, where the caregiver interviews the care recipient and care recipient interviews the caregiver and then they decide, ‘Hey, this is a good relationship.’ We just facilitate that relationship, and that's where we use personality to raise the probability that that interaction goes well. But the result is, because we're all tech-enabled, we're able to bypass quite a bit of that margin off to the caregiver."

Caregivers also earn more on average by using The Helper Bees' platform, earning $15 an hour, rather than the $9 or $10 that is the industry average.  

With this new funding, the company plans to use expand its partnerships in the long-term care insurance market, a space that Hu says not many people know about.  

"It's a fascinating insurance product, and I think that it is the only private insurance that covers aging in place related services, like home care, assisted living and skilled nursing care," he said.

"All the innovation that we're going to see very soon coming up for aging in place is going to come out of the long term care insurance industry because you have quite a bit of innovation that's occurring, and they have the ability to pay for different services. That's why we've chosen to launch within long term care. It's a big problem, but they also control the purse strings, and they can do really interesting things and so we feel like it's a bit of a sandbox. It’s a fascinating insurance product that I think is the exact environment to push for all sorts of new health care innovation."

The funding will also go toward product development, specifically by expanding into new verticals, such as workers comp and disability. On top of that, the company also plans to make better use of its data, which will go ard building out its machine learning models in order to allow the carriers to tailor the assessment process to make it go faster for the claimant and be more accurate.

Doing this will also involve expanding the team, which grew by 5X to 133 employees from the beginning of the year, most of which are its nursing team, who are part time workers; by the end of the year The Helper Bees plans to have around 150 to 160 total employees. That will include adding to its product team, as well as to its sales and marketing, which really means its team that helps partner with insurance carriers. 

The goal for The Helper Bees, Hu said, is "to expand the notion of what a home caregiver and home care service can do."

"We are bringing in all of the really interesting home care technology services that are out there but they can't gain traction because it's so hard to deploy at scale. We’re already at scale, we're already working with over a dozen insurance carriers, we've hit that scale. Now our ability to change the way that care is received, not only through a better caregiver that’s coming into home, that’s happier, that's paid better than industry average, but they're also bringing in other other tools at their disposal. We are turning them into superhumans, where they have more access to medication assistance devices, fall prevention, depression devices, all the different services that are out there," he said.

"We want to own that home care experience and I think that we'll do that shortly. We're already building additional partnerships outside the carrier realm to deploy new and interesting products that dramatically improve that home care experience."

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