The CareRooms concept occurred to me after spending the last 25 years in healthcare and being a long term carer for my father, who died in 2016. But I started off selling bagels. By CareRooms chief executive Paul Gaudin.
The New York Bagel Company is not an obvious segue to the healthcare sector. In the late 1980s, as co-founder of the New York Bagel Company, I was struggling to sell bagels, as the British public didn’t know what a bagel was!
The Health Education Authority was running a campaign to reduce fat in diets and I struck on the idea of promoting the bagel as the bread roll with a ‘non fattening centre’. Sales quickly increased and people found they liked them. The rest is history.
Shortly afterwards, I was contacted by the HEA to ask if I could advise on consumer behaviour change. After explaining I was an engineer who made bagels with no expertise in health education or behaviour change, I agreed.
Not being a medic, I suggested that the easiest way to communicate complex personal biometrics and health information to consumers might be to have a single number which could be represented as a position in a queue of 100 people the same as them. And so the “Q Score” was born.
I progressed to running the national cardiovascular disease screening programme for the HEA. I realised it was vital that consumers who had a health check and needed follow up biometrics, could have easy access to regular tests to determine their actual health risk, before worrying busy GPs unnecessarily.
I approached pharmacy chains and developed a national network of pharmacy partners who wanted to offer professional services and installed our software and training. Twenty years later we still have over 700 pharmacy screening clinics delivering services to consumers, insurers and employees.
The following decade was spent trying to understand how the health sector worked and failing and succeeding with businesses ranging from occupational health to private GP clinics and providing ship doctors to Saga cruise ships.
My instinct was that around 80 per cent of any population is not really interested in their health and that during one’s life, we have varying incentives and events which mean that we are engaged in our health. The one constant is financial health.
If we could connect with the insurance industry to reward their customers for improving their health and use the Q Score as a proxy for life and health risk, then we might create a sustainable value chain where population health would have a core lifestyle reason to engage with and measure their health.
A global reinsurer invested in this model and took the idea global and I was immersed in a rich international journey of cultural differences in behaviour, distribution models, health systems and insurance products.
In 2015, NHS England national clinical director for innovation Tony Young asked if I could advise him on setting up the NHS clinical entrepreneurs programme.
This has become a fascinating mission to help doctors and other healthcare professionals develop their innovations whilst staying in the NHS.
It’s a hugely enjoyable way to volunteer and to share a lifetime of experiences to help some of the brightest entrepreneurs, to avoid making the same mistakes as me.
In parallel with this journey, I had become a carer for my father who developed Parkinson’s disease and later my mother who had a complete mental breakdown with the stress of caring for him.
During the 10 years of this journey I experienced almost every part of the healthcare system, bridging the widening gaps in care and I utilised technology to reduce the impact on my own family life and to help my parents live independently.
When my father died in April 2016, we had accumulated an electric hoist, bed, chair and a fully adapted bathroom. We shut the door for two months whilst we mourned and in June booked a van to take everything to the tip.
Watching the news that morning about the NHS bed crisis, I came up with the idea for CareRooms. My mother was becoming lonely and socially isolated. She had no money, no purpose in life and was going rapidly downhill.
I thought: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could create a model to allow safe discharge of a patient to their local community, whilst safeguarding the patient from my mother and my mother from the patient?
“She wouldn’t want to provide care, but could provide a warm welcome, reheat some meals and have purpose, some income and a bed would be freed up in the hospital.”
The safeguarding model was vital. I could not risk investing in such an ambitious model without fundamentally dealing with this.
For 18 months we’ve raised capital, developed a sophisticated technology platform, systems, people and training, to allow communities to help their local authorities and NHS to help them.
We have set up our working group with the county council as the next stage in the journey and we hope we can help both the NHS and social care with their huge and growing capacity issues.
Paul Gaudin is the founder and chief executive of CareRooms. For more information see CareRooms.com
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