The audio for this podcast can be accessed here.
David Williams: This is David Williams, co-founder of MedPharma Partners and author of the Health Business Blog. I’m speaking today with Jonathan Schwartz; co-founder and CEO of CareZone. Jonathan, it’s nice to speak with you today.
Jonathan Schwartz: Thanks very much, David. It’s a pleasure to be here with you.
Williams: Jonathan, what gave you the idea to create CareZone?
Schwartz: The idea for CareZone came from my personal life as well as from my partners’. We both have parents who are a little frail and we both have families who run into issues now and then. The question for us was how do we do this, where is it that you get organized and where do you connect with the people that matter? The idea came from trying to solve a personal problem
Williams: Who would you say is the target audience for what you’re doing? Is it people just like yourself or is it a broad group?
Schwartz: It’s for anybody who finds himself/herself caring for somebody else, which is a polite way of saying “It’s for everybody on Earth”. In some way or another, you’re going to find yourself either caring for your parents or caring for a spouse or caring for a child. We focus on the second syllable in the word “healthcare.” It’s what happens with your family when you find yourself taking care of your dad. You need a place to write down his WiFi password, his bank accounts, and you want to make sure it’s available to your brother, but you also want to keep track of the phone numbers of his neighbors.
It’s for all the things that surround caring for somebody. Who are the people who need this type of service? It’s the people who are comfortable with smartphones and tablets and know how to log in to something like Facebook.
Williams: You are trying to reach a broad population. Can you give a specific example of somebody who benefited from using CareZone and how they did that?
Schwartz: The service is entirely private. There are no ads; it’s a freemium service. Our mainstream product is a free product. You just go to carezone.com, identify the person you’re taking care of and then you have an account.
I find it best to talk about my own experiences rather than talking about other users. In my own experience, I had a child a little over a decade ago who like most children had fevers, some developmental issues and things that my wife and I wanted to keep track of. We had a physical therapist for some set of applications and there was no place to start keeping a journal along with a digital archive beyond something like Dropbox or another kind of storage service. There was no way that would just make it easy to keep track of an individual.
The notion behind CareZone is when you create an account, you’re creating it on behalf of the person you’re caring for and then we structure how you store information.
It also allows you to keep track of medications, which didn’t matter to us with our child, but now is a very prominent part of my care for my father. For the day-to-day care of my father, my brother and I need a safe place to write down all this information. It includes everything from care-giving instructions to instructions for the person who comes a couple of times a week to help with his medication or to help with the bathing.
It becomes a personal resource, a place that’s always at the back of your mind. There’s a lot of information that you want to manage and that you want to keep track of. More often than not, it ends up in the upper right-hand drawer of your desk.
My belief is that our data center is safer than your desk drawer. It’s also easier for other people to connect into that account in the event that you want to share information. We’ve connected babysitters and we’ve connected other caregivers when it comes time for folks to care of their parents. Both of my parents are in their ’80s now and I wanted a way to make sure I have a safe place for my dad’s online accounts and passwords. These are things that I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose.
I also wanted a way to keep a journal with him. He’s actually involved and telling me about how an exam went at the hospital.. The way CareZone works is you invite in helpers but, first and foremost, you create an account for the person you’re caring for. You then determine if you want to invite your brother, sister, and wife, who then all have access to it.
As updates are made, all of those folks are kept informed in a very lightweight way. It’s not necessarily something you would go in and use every day, but when a time and occasion arises, it’s there for you. It also gives you the comfort of knowing this is private information and that no insurance company or no advertiser is going to get access to it, while at the same time it is a place to help keep things organized that only pertain to the care of a loved one. We tend to live somewhat segmented lives and CareZone fills the niche surrounding caring for somebody.
Williams: You used a few interesting words such as private, personal, share, and safe when talking about different sorts of relationships. I imagine that the type of relationship you would have with your father and what you would share with him would be broader than if you’re dealing with a babysitter.. Does CareZone help people to sort out those types of relationships and do they have to keep track of what information goes where?
Schwartz: It’s very binary. The target audience for us is someone who’s unlikely to be listening to a podcast. It’s more likely going to be a babysitter or a caregiver that you hired plus your family. There are two levels of security for every account and they’re password protected.
The items are either available for everybody to go look at or they can be locked away. When they’re locked away, the individual who opened the account always has access to the information no matter what. You can simply say, ” I only want the following three people to have access to this document.”
Let me give you an example:
With my father, we’ve got passwords for his accounts. I don’t need the caregiver to check on his bills or to have access to do that. That item is locked away and it’s only available to me and my brother and my dad. That’s the kind of granularity that is very simplistic ,but we’re not targeting folks who are in the IT industry. We’re targeting folks who have families and other priorities not necessarily figuring out permissions.
Williams: You’re announcing some new features this week. Can you tell me about those features and why they’re coming out now?
Schwartz: We actually launched on Valentines Day this past February, and our first priority was to make sure that we had solved the problem in the nuclear family context.. For example, if it’s just you and your sisters and you’re taking care of your dad. How do we do a good job of enabling you to store the right information and make it really simple and easy?
There’s an email address that comes with every account. Whatever information is sent to that email address goes into the account. It’s always there in the background, always available for you. What we heard from users was that the nuclear family context is important and that every family is a member of a community one way or another. When they had decided that they wanted to share with 10 or 15 people, it was hard to do from within CareZone because CareZone was all about the private context, not about the community aspect.
When we had access to the iPhone platform and access to a contact list of folks that you’re already interacting with and we similarly had access to a telephone service and a whole variety of public infrastructures. This allowed us to put together a simple mechanism to help eliminate the phone tree. If you’ve ever been a part of a phone tree, you know they’re very time consuming. We wanted to give you a simple way of saying, “Here’s 10 people I want to let know that mom got out of surgery, that she’s doing great and she’s in Room 12G, and if you want to send flowers, please do it here.”
It will save time for the person who is charged with caring for somebody to not have to do that manual communication. Telephone calls have a sense of immediacy to them and they tend to be responded to and listened to in a very different way than email. We just give people another mechanism for communicating. With our phone tree, once you hit send, you’re then taken to a status page that shows you who is getting the message and who hasn’t got it yet.
It’s just another service helping to establish peace of mind so we enable folks to worry less and help more, which is the tagline of the company. Another service, which is similar in philosophy is this idea of reaching out beyond your core family. We are going to be unveiling a calendar this week .It’s the first calendar designed around somebody else. We’re comfortable with our Outlook calendars or Google calendar, but that’s ours. Where would you put a calendar for your mom where items are still shared? Instead of “who’s attending this meeting?”, which is what most business calendars are focused on, ours will be more around the idea of, “Somebody needs to take mom to the hair dresser and nobody signed up to do it”.
The calendar highlights items that haven’t been assigned to make it easier to look at the calendar events, whether it’s going to a clinic or getting to a piano lesson, and then coordinate among all the individuals that are helping you in that account to make sure that gaps are managed and completed.
Those are two good examples of ways that we’re reaching beyond just the nuclear family and helping families that are part of communities to engage with those folks, but still in a private and secured way. You don’t want to let everybody know how mom’s doing when she got out of surgery. You don’t want to let your 600 Facebook friends know about it. It just gives you a private mechanism to communicate.
Williams: Those are exciting and interesting features. I assume you also have a road map for other things that may come down the pipe later on. Anything else you might share about how you see this platform evolving over the next few years?
Schwartz: There are two ways that we’re really looking at evolving it. One of them is a result of looking at the account owners we do have. We recently heard from a user who had 43 profiles set up, so 43 loved ones, as you would see it in the application. We were thinking 43, that is a lot. It turns out that the individual is a professional and she’s trying to manage the profiles of a bunch of special-needs children and wanted a private place to do that. Each child has a separate set of parents and each of these accounts helps them interact with the other parents, but still enables them to have a singular place to go store information and make sure a journal is kept or notes are kept.
We’re looking to continue to build services for families, and also for the professional market place. All the things that are happening outside of the hospital are interesting to us. That goes to the professional world as well as at the personal one. We want to do as good of a job as we can at being useful.
We want to make sure that people have safe access, easy-to-use technology that’s very rational and easily understood, and still provides them with a tremendous amount of utility.
Williams: What can you tell us about the number of users that you have and how the growth is going?
Schwartz: In terms of number of users, we’re still under a million, but the thing that we’re more focused on rather than the raw number of users is the rate at which the growth is occurring. That is accelerating. It’s not just the first derivative (for the math heads in the audience), it’s the second derivative that you really pay attention to.
That’s happening in part because if you think about caring for somebody, it’s not viral in the same way that a social networking site would be, but families tend to be interconnected. If you’re taking care of your dad and you’re talking to your sister about it, your sister might actually need it for her husband. . We’re seeing this kind of social propagation effect on the market place. We’re really happy with the growth rate. The market is not limited. It’s a pretty big market for us to go after.
We’re focusing currently on customers that speak Spanish and we’re obviously going to be localizing for every language that our users care about. Right now, we’ve got users in easily two-thirds of the world, everywhere you can imagine, customers have registered and created accounts.. But unfortunately, it’s limited to English and Spanish, which doesn’t really help our Hong Kong and Chinese customers, but we’re working on it.
Williams: I’ve been speaking today with Jonathan Schwartz. He is CEO of CareZone. We’ve been talking about the company and some of the new features that are launching this week. Jonathan, thanks so much for your time.
Schwartz: Likewise, David. Thanks very much for the opportunity.
November 14, 2012