Digital outpatient care: an app for the heroes of our society
One in five Germans is involved in the care of a relative. But instead of enjoying this time, a large proportion find this juggling of doctor's appointments, learning care handles or searching for relevant information to be downright stressful. Markus C. Müller, CEO, recognized this problem and founded Nui Care GmbH in 2018, together with an interdisciplinary team of experts from the fields of nursing and IT.
The goal of this Munich-based startup is to support family caregivers in their daily care routine by means of a digital companion. This extends to organizational and individual topics. In this way, they are creating - in line with the UN Sustainable Goals 3 "Health and Wellbeing" - a future in which care is not synonymous with burden. This leaves more time for the important things.
Motivation is to improve outpatient care in the long term
"During my training as a hospice companion six years ago, I was suddenly made aware of how overwhelmed most family caregivers are. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for them to become ill themselves after years of care at home, and thus become nursing cases. As a software entrepreneur, I thought to myself how useful it would be to support outpatient care digitally.
We would like to delay the move to a nursing home as much as possible, or even prevent it.
"The parents of my co-founder Christian Ehl are also now of an age that requires care. When Chris got to grips with the topic of care at home, he also quickly realized that there is no digital assistance for caregiving relatives."
There are over four million people in need of care in Germany. The vast majority of these are cared for at home.
"Our Nui is a groundbreaking artificial intelligence.
Because we have fed this chat bot with a great deal of expert knowledge from the field of care, it can respond specifically to the questions it is asked and is therefore an optimal advisor in matters of everyday care and nursing. In principle, this means we can relieve the burden on all those who provide care at home. Whether they are family members, care services, friends or neighbors - we support all these people.
Basically, Nui is made up of two parts. The first consists of everything organizational, such as the organization of everyday care, the formation of family groups or public discussion forums. The individual guide Nui forms the second part. This can be asked questions around care topics. Because Nui's answers relate exclusively to the individual situation of our users, they receive only the information that is relevant to them."
After all, who wants to spend hours digging through mountains of information and find everything that's relevant on your own?
"In this respect, chatting with Nui is like talking to an expert. Everything relevant is communicated to me - which, in addition to patience, naturally saves precious time."
Sounds plausible. But an AI always seems abstract, while nursing is practice oriented. Can the two be reconciled?
"Most definitely. Finally, Nui doesn't do the work alone. If Nui can't answer a question, it is forwarded to our care experts, who then deal with it personally. By giving our users real-life examples, they learn how to behave appropriately in certain situations, or how to deal with special circumstances accordingly. Users can also download helpful documents from the app. For example, sample applications for submitting vacation days, or for applying for caregiver leave.
Thus, our users can not only educate themselves, but also spend their care at home in a more relaxed way."
An interesting approach. How can Nui Care bring you profit?
"One thing first: for the end user, the app should be available for free. To make this possible, we want to monetize Nui in three ways. First, through employers, who can buy the app and then make it available for free to employees who have use for it.
In Germany, about 10% of all employees are in a care situation. For a company with 5,000 employees, that's about 500.
"This is extremely useful, because if employees are less distracted by caregiving, they can work more effectively and are less likely to get sick. Secondly, we plan to cooperate with insurance companies, as we have been doing with Allianz since 2020, for example. They will benefit from our concept in the long term because outpatient care is more cost-effective than nursing homes. Finally, the German Federal Ministry of Health is currently dealing with the legislative process for the so-called digital care application. In the future, this should make it possible for our app to be reimbursed by the nursing care insurance fund."
So far, you seem to have had a run. But have there also been setbacks in the past three years?
"Of course, as a company there always are. The COVID 19 pandemic has proved to be a double-edged sword for us. On the one hand, the issue of care has become enormously more important, as older people have obviously been isolated in nursing homes. On the other hand, it hasn't yet worked out positively for us, as many large companies think our concept is great, but simply don't have the time to introduce something new like Nui because of the ongoing pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is helping and burdening us at the same time.
Where do you see yourselves in five years - despite the pandemic and with the support of 5-HT?
"Well, since our founding, we have gradually oriented ourselves to the market and understood it. Nevertheless, we are still learning a lot about our target group now. On the one hand, we would like to continue optimizing our product in the future to offer our users the best possible support. On the other hand, we would like to bring Nui Care to the international market. The USA, in addition to the European countries, is an exciting market for us. In this context, we see 5-HT as a springboard: Through their excellent networking, we hope to gain even better access to our target group through partnerships.
So, if we manage to take some of the burden off the shoulders of relatives in outpatient care, so that they are less likely to become ill or unable to work, then we will have achieved our goal."
Heart, soul and passion - advice for founders
"There are many ups and downs associated with a business, which makes it incredibly challenging. To go through the valleys and into the upcoming ups in the long term, you need a topic that touches you emotionally on an individual level. Because it's only through that kind of enthusiasm that premature quitting is prevented."
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