Renee launches to be a personal health assistant for seniors

Steven Loeb · October 4, 2022 · Short URL:

The company recently went through the HHS PandemicX and the AARP Age-tech accelerators

Older Americans are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country; since 1900, the percentage of Americans age 65 and older nearly quadrupled, while the actual number increased more than 17 times. Not only that, but in 2019, those aged 65 to 74 age group, was more than 14 times larger than in 1900, while the 75 to 84 group was 20 times larger, and the over 85 group was more than 53 times larger. 

Basically, there's more old people than there have ever been before and this aging population are going to need more care in the coming years. Of course, this is happening right as the country is facing an increasing physician shortage as we come out of the COVID pandemic. 

That's why there's no better time for Renee (formerly HeyRenee) to officially launch.

The company, which was founded by Nick Desai and Dr. Renee Dua, the married couple who previously co-founded at-home health service Heal, uses artificial intelligence to automate the care experience for seniors.  

The service takes everything a doctor says to a patient and matrixes it against their insurance coverage, giving them a daily plan and reminders. For example, if a patient has 12 daily medications they need to take, they don't have to sit around and wonder which ones to take and how to take them; instead, Renee will send them a text with a picture of the pill that says, "Take this pill at this time with milk." The patient then just has to say, "Hey, Alexa, tell Renee I took my blood pressure medication," and that information will be recorded and sent to their doctor. The patients vitals will also be monitored, so if their blood pressure spikes, Renee will let their doctor know that either they're not taking their medications, or this particular medication isn't working for them. 

Renee is not just automated; it also provides users an on-ramp, connecting patients to a human who can help them learn now to use the service. In the 45-minute long consultation, called a Personal Care Activation, all of the patient's necessary health background information, including current doctors, social determinants, health goals, existing issues/conditions, ongoing medications, and pharmacies, are captured in order to curate their concierge care experience. 

Going through the AARP accelerator 

When Renee raised its $4.4 million Seed II funding round in January, the plan was to launch the company in the coming spring; that didn't happen, of course, and the reason, as Desai explained in an interview, is that the company was chosen for the AARP Age-tech accelerator, a 16 week long program that ended in August, which required it to be pre-launch.

While that delayed Renee's launch, it actually turned out to be a blessing, he explained, because it gave the company access to a group of 1,100 seniors who were able to test it, and give product feedback, which the company then used to optimize the user interface and experience. 

For example, Desai said, the tests confirmed what the company already believed, that seniors actually do use technology.

"They use text messaging, they use FaceTime or WhatsApp to talk to their grandkids, a lot of them use Amazon, Netflix, or GrubHub, or services like that. The reason they're not using healthtech is because healthtech always ends up as complicated as healthcare and not as easy as technology," he saod.

"They don't even call it 'integration,' they just say, 'everything in one place,' but they want integration. They don't want their diabetes app, their telehealth app, their prescription delivery app, and this app to all be disconnected experiences. No one wants that, frankly. That's what they responded very favorably to."  

Going through the accelerator also changed the way the service will be delivered: instead of offering it as a downloadable app, Renee will be a browser experience, as that was an easier way for seniors to access it.

Finally, the company updated its UX, as the one that the seniors responded too best was a messaging-like user interface, rather than an Uber-style app; Renee doesn't require them to type anything, but rather gives them new options based om what they pick.

"Prescription delivery, telehealth with their doctor; tracking their vitals; booking their appointments; and real human assistance: these are the things we put into the product and we were able to validate that these are the things that have 65 to 70% favorable ratings. We built a product that people really want," Desai explained.

It also helped the company learn what doesn't resonate with this demographic, such as integrating mental health services, which did not resonate with the senior population.

Renee measured the success of its trial in four different ways: the first was engagement, and Renee was able to engage 92% of users on this product 5.4 times a week or more. That means they were using the product as it was designed, as a daily use component, to book their appointments, to track their medications, and to measure their vitals.

Secondly, the company measured its ability to move patients to more digitally driven care experience, and it was able to get the patients on the pilot to use 1.8 more digital health services on average than they were using before.

"What does that mean? They started using telehealth more frequently, they started using prescription delivery, they started using an online service or whatever, all integrated and seamlessly unified in the relay experience," said Desai.

The third thing Renee measured were clinical outcomes, and it was able to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients by 25.2 mmHg in 90 days by driving adherence, and getting people to take their medications as prescribed. While blood pressure medication is a trial and error process to find the right combination, Renee was able to shorten that process down to one week from the typical three months between appointments. 

Finally, the company measured patient satisfaction, and saw a net promoter score of plus 92 on its presentation.

"The founding principle of this company is, healthcare most often falls down because of the most basic things. There's a saying in governance that you get the greatest chaos when the most basic things stop working; you turn on the faucet and water doesn't come, you turn on light and electricity doesn't come, that's when you get civil breakdown. And in healthcare, one in three seniors will stop taking medications because they ran out of refills, and they go to the pharmacy, and they don't have it, or they forget to go to the pharmacy," said Desai.

For example, one of Renee's beta patients went to a doctor's office and got a slip to call the lab to schedule an MRI. Renee called the lab for her and she told the company that if she had to do it on her own, she wouldn't have done it, and not gotten the MRI.

"What we are bridging is that gap in the most routine things. 'Keep taking your medications, make your doctor's appointments that we arranged. Do the things that allow the vast majority of patients who have the common chronic conditions, like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, whatever, to stay on track. If you see your doctor, take your medications, and track your vitals, you will improve.' And we want to make sure those things happen," he said.

There are roughly 500 paid users on Renee currently, and the plan is to cap that number at 1,500 paid subscribers in Q4, just so the company can make sure that it's delivering good service to everyone involved before it allows everyone on.

Future partnerships 

Going forward, the company plans to enter into new partnerships to expand its services and capabilities, including a soon to be announced relationship with a company that allows patients to take vitals from their phone.

That means that it can detect the change in vessels and muscles in the patient's neck and face, so they can track respiratory rates, or measure pulse ox is by the exact tone of blue or red in veins and arteries.

Renee also plans to enter into partnerships with hospitals and health systems, though Desai made it clear that the company is launching direct-to-consumer at first because the company patients to drive their care.

"The moment we partner with the hospital or health system or an insurance company, they want to drive the choices that the patient makes. We want the patient to be able to make their own choices," he explained.

The greatest need for this service is amongst people who are on regular Medicare, not a Medicare Advantage plan. While MA people can use it also too, he said, no hospital or health system cares about the straight Medicare patient, because MA patients are where they’re getting paid and Renee doesn't want to shut people out.

"We will eventually partner with hospitals and health systems to provide more catered services and partners that are in network and whatever but we all have the ability to do that already. We ask for insurance information and we will check your eligibility. You'll remember we built this at Heal, and so we know what to do with it. We check your eligibility and if that service isn't covered, we're not going to recommend it to you unless there's no other option. 'Hey, your insurance doesn’t cover ride to the doctors. So we're going to do this.'"

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Nick Desai

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Co-Founder/CEO of Heal. Serial Entrepreneur, Jubilant Father of Three and Food Lover.