CareRooms: the perils of “Silicon Valley hype” when your customer is the NHS

A cautionary tale of an innovator likely sidelined due to clumsy press talk. The NHS has a problem called bed blocking, where post-acute care patients cannot return home because no one is there to care for them. It was up 40 percent last year. One approach to it has been home/community care combined longer term with telehealth services to reduce unneeded re-admissions. Another is freeing up the bed by placing a patient who does not need direct nursing care in a supervised post-acute room in a setting which provides assistance services.

In the US, many large hospitals and clinics run or partner with hotel-like annexes for recovering patients, usually post-surgical, who need assistance but not direct nursing care or special medical monitoring. The patient remains overnight or for a few days, with or without a private duty nurse, until the person can be discharged to travel home. These recovery centers/hotels, plain to plush, are popular in ‘medical tourism’ cities such as Miami, Houston, and New York, but well-used by locals for many procedures including orthopedic and cosmetic surgery recovery. Regular hotels have also gotten into this act with special services marketed to surgical practices. Recovery hotels and services may or may not be covered by insurance as they are part of hospital or practice referral. 

CareRooms’ approach is closer to ‘Airbnb for post-surgical discharge care’. Here this startup, according to its website, arranges rooms in private homes for a fee, equips them appropriately, and the lessor can earn £50/night. The host stays on the premises, microwaves meals and serves drinks, and can be sociable. Other care is provided by CareRooms. The idea is simple, eminently pitchable, and may actually address this NHS problem usefully if supervised properly. The co-founder and medical director of CareRooms, Harry Thirkettle, is a part-time A&E registrar at Southend and was mentored in the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur program; the other co-founder was a program mentor. 

And therein lies the catch. The service has not been in trials yet, and here they are offering room lessors without care training £50/night right on the website, which gives the impression that this service is readily available (wrong). How do they provide their ‘other care’ and what is it? How do they equip the room? Recruit and train hosts? How will they scale three rooms to 30 and then 300? And payment–covered or private? All those problematic, unglamorous and sobering things founders learn in early days haven’t been experienced yet. (more…)

Is Theranos a $9 billion question mark?

Breaking News. According to an exposé published yesterday in The Wall Street Journal*, low-cost and fast growing small sample blood testing company Theranos [TTA 28 Aug] is not ‘doing what it says it does’. Four former employees allege that Theranos’ testing system, dubbed the Edison, which processes small finger-pricked blood samples collected in ‘nanotainers’, only handles a fraction of the tests claimed–19 out of 205. In a complaint to regulators, one Theranos employee accused the company of failing to report test results that raised questions about the precision of their proprietary Edison system–and that most of the tests were being run on traditional testing machines which required dilution of the tiny samples. The article reports on serious questions which have been raised on the accuracy of the Edison testing versus conventional testing, including the integrity of finger-pricked blood and sample dilution. Gaps in results were seen last year on tests for vitamin D, two thyroid hormones and prostate cancer, though Theranos has been reporting its tests to CMS in a process that all labs go through called proficiency testing, and has one test for herpes that has been FDA cleared.

In a follow up article, Theranos reportedly is no longer collecting nanotainers except for the FDA cleared herpes test.

Theranos is currently valued at $9 billion and has raised over $400 million in VC funding.

According to the first article, British biochemist Ian Gibbons, (more…)

Are wearables starting to deliver?

If you caught the recent Wired article entitled Wearables Are Totally Failing the People Who Need Them Most, you may have felt a sense of deep depression that a sector growing as strongly as it is is apparently delivering so little real health benefit (you may also be depressed to see the world of apps developers described as “From Silicon Valley and San Francisco to Austin and MIT…” although remember the North American-based Major League Baseball is called the World Series). The thrust of the article is that young people are developing wearables for people like them, who are then stopping using them within a few months, whereas those with long term conditions (LTCs) who are not the target customers are actually the ones using wearables consistently. As they say: (more…)