The care industry is not very attractive for most startups. Innovations rarely find their way onto this market because issues like ‘incontinence’, ‘repositioning’ and ‘patient care’ simply don’t seem ‘sexy’ enough. In addition, there is the difficulty of developing viable business models in the care sector. This is a fatal mistake, considering the developments in this area: 500,000 nursing staff are expected to be absent in Germany in 2035. There are already 25 residents per caregiver – even though the number of people to be cared for in Germany is rising continuously.
To counter this development, Jens Grudno founded the startup AssistMe. As a digital care assistant, its technology supports caregivers in their everyday lives. And above all where it is needed most urgently. This may not be ‘sexy’, but it is bitterly necessary in the care sector. In an interview with 5-HT Jens tells how his start-up conquers a conservative industry – and thus not only improves the quality of care and reduces suffering, but also saves costs and time.
Away with routine – personalize care
“The care is currently strongly dependent on routine. It is based on care protocols and the care recipients are provided with care at specified intervals. With our technology, the nursing staff should spend the same amount of time with those in need of care personally as before, but only when the nursing staff is actually needed”, explains founder and CEO Jens Grudno, “This means that we want to reduce unnecessary extra work and additional costs. Those in need of care should be supported by the nursing staff at the right time, exactly when they need their help”.
AssistMe enables this care tailored to the care recipient through the use of state-of-the-art sensor technologies for commercially available incontinence aids. A reusable clip is attached directly to the absorbent incontinence pants. “Several sensors are built into the clip. By combining all the data, we can measure moisture and its amount, possible stool, movement and acceleration. So we can tell exactly if, how much and what exactly is in the incontinence pants,” explains Jens.
Similar products from other manufacturers are already being developed, but so far these have concentrated solely on the question of whether urine is in incontinence pants. Information about stool excretions is not collected by them. But this is particularly important, as Jens explains: “There is a correlation between lying time in stool excretions and medical complications. It is therefore very important to recognise whether stool is present, because its PH value and bacteria can destroy the skin barrier and cause urinary tract infections.
Reduce lying times from ‘three to one’
In the future, AssistMes digital care assistant will also be able to provide information on the body position of incontinence sufferers. “We are currently concentrating mainly on the subject of incontinence. But we want to integrate further care-relevant functions in the future. The movement of the care recipient is automatically documented. The nursing assistant can therefore also tell the nursing staff whether a bedridden person needs to be moved or whether he or she is trying to get up at night. In this way, the nursing assistant can draw attention to dangerous situations at an early stage and prevent possible injury consequences.”
The AssistMe team has recently set itself a goal: “We want to drastically reduce the current length of stay of up to three hours in incontinence pants that require changing – to a maximum of one hour.
This does not mean that routine visits per se are omitted, as Jens makes clear. But the nursing staff could carry out incontinence care efficiently and discreetly, because the manual checks on the incontinence pants could be replaced by digital information via the smartphone. Unnecessary invasions of privacy and unnecessary waking at night will be reduced and the quality of life of those in need of care will be improved.
Save material costs – optimize care
Their technology is not only advantageous for the nursing staff, explains Jens: “AssistMe has qualitative advantages first and foremost, since unnecessary routine steps are omitted, leaving more personal time for the patient. But AssistMe also optimizes material consumption: Product discharges are avoided, the absorption capacity is optimally utilised and the product selection is designed individually for each individual through better transparency of requirements. This is why AssistMe is cost-neutral for care facilities at the end of the year.”
AssistMe’s main customers are care institutions, but their beneficiaries include not only the home managers themselves, but above all the care services and nursing staff, who will benefit greatly from AssistMe. The documented data can be used for training purposes, but also to improve one’s own work. “However, the end devices of the nursing staff are not personalized,” Jens emphasizes, “Our goal is not the control, but the support of the nursing staff.”
For the patients – emotionalising care
In an alpha test at the end of last year and a beta test at the beginning of this year, AssistMe was already able to fully convince its testers and continues to be permanently installed in a care facility.
“Some nurses became very emotional working with AssistMe. AssistMe told them that the patient needed them – shortly after a routine check. The nurses knew that they had routinely visited the patient two and a half hours later. That’s how long the patient would have to lie in a used incontinence pant – without AssistMe.” This example illustrates how important the technology is for the patients themselves.
The multinational team of AssistMe has dedicated itself precisely to this desire to enable those in need of care to lead a better life and to relieve the nursing staff of this burden. The brilliant idea for AssistMe came to Jens in 2016 during his time at company builder Next Big Thing, triggered by personal experiences in his family.
New features and possibilities – innovative care
None of the 13-strong team comes from the care industry itself, but Jens does not see this as a disadvantage at all: “We dare to ask questions that other people in the industry no longer ask. As a startup, the feedback loop is very tight with us. One third of our team works in the area of Human-Centered Design. That’s very important to us.”
Especially in the care sector, however, it is not always easy for a young company, because the market is considered conservative and not very innovative, as Jens explains: “In the care sector, you have to prove that you are serious about your startup. In other words, you need a very long breath and investors who are committed to the long term. There is little competition for that, because the topic is unattractive for startups.”
AssistMe intends to launch its technology on the market within the next six months. Its technology will then be further developed and equipped with new features in order to replace as many routine checks as possible with personalised care activities. The startup is therefore looking for care facilities that want to test its product and install it permanently. In addition, seven new jobs are to be created in the areas of technical development and sales by mid-2020.
Although the care industry is a challenge especially for startups, at the same time it has an advantage that only very few industries have. “The beauty of the care industry is that my work is now much more satisfying than anything I did before,” explains Jens, “because now I have a higher mission that drives me.