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Drive Innovation May 24, 2016

Innovation Diffusion: Tampa Bay Accelerator Focuses on Caregiving

Founder & CEO, ReunionCare
Key Takeaway
Passion drives us to create better solutions for caregivers' journey - @REUNIONCare CEO #CareConFL16

The Tampa Bay Caregiver Accelerator (TBCA) provides pre-incubation services for entrepreneurs with a caregiving focus in Tampa Bay, Florida. TBCA is designed to develop caregiving advancements, improve healthcare delivery, and seed entrepreneurial opportunities to reinvest in future innovations. At last week’s Florida Caregiver Conference and Pitch Competition, six companies out of the 20 that went through the nine-week accelerator program were selected to present their business model. Winners were selected from open public voting on social media and by a panel of judges, including Callyo Founder Chris Bennett, HHAeXchange SVP Mary Maloney, CareSync CEO Travis Bond, and AARP’s Ken Thomas. Artistas/Art for Autism was selected as the winner of the People’s Choice Award and Judge’s Choice went to communication tool Marvee. In an interview with Oliver Wyman Health, Monica Stynchula, CEO of ReunionCare and TBCA founding team member, shares more about the accelerator program, her own startup’s caregiving solution, and details of the pitch competition winners:

Oliver Wyman Health: What is the mission of ReunionCare? How did you get started?

Monica Stynchula: ReunionCare emerged from the unmet needs of families now faced with the overwhelming burdens of caring for loved ones. ReunionCare is marketing a patented system for online and mobile collaboration in the connected healthcare market, and the service facilitates aging in place for seniors (and other at-risk populations), reducing social isolation, improving health outcomes, and lowering the total cost of care. Our founders have deep experience as social workers, medical doctors, and global business leaders trained in health information management systems and electronic health records, but perhaps more importantly, they have served as primary caregivers for their own loved ones and experienced firsthand the pain and frustration that comes with that role. In very simple terms, ReunionCare wants to change the way we care for each other.

OWH: What problem are you working to solve? What is your solution and how does it work?

MS: ReunionCare aggregates all elements of care into a total care solution, removing the silos of the past, ensuring a coordinated and complete care plan that keeps everyone informed and aware. Through this unique “wraparound” care approach, the family and consumer of care participate in creating an individualized, culturally sensitive care plan. Additionally, health professionals work with families in crafting one unified plan. ReunionCare is a value-priced, subscription-based online platform that connects those requiring care with their family members, caregivers, and professional healthcare providers to collaboratively create and manage a patient-centered care plan.

OWH: Where are you based? How has the area supported your development?

MS: We are headquartered in The Innovation Lab @Poynter in St Petersburg, FL, and expanded into Asia in 2016, opening an office in Hong Kong. The Innovation Lab @Poynter is a perfect spot for us as we grow. It is located in the heart of the Innovation District in downtown St. Petersburg, near the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus and it is now one of the largest clusters of startup companies in the Tampa Bay region. Similarly, Hong Kong is a fantastic base for our Asia operations due to the strong startup ecosystem in place.

OWH: Where are you in the development process? What are your immediate goals and challenges?

MS: While we are ultimately a consumer product, our immediate goal is to facilitate growth through additional provider accounts, from physicians and hospitals to nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, and home healthcare agencies since they typically purchase bulk subscriptions for their relevant patient populations. Interestingly, the human resource departments at corporations have also expressed interest in purchasing subscriptions as a benefit for their employees who are caregivers, as a way to reduce employee absenteeism. Consumer and provider feedback has allowed us to improve the product in ways we hadn’t initially anticipated.

OWH: What projects and partnerships are you working on now? What is your most recent milestone achievement?

MS: I’m happy to report that just this week we signed another provider agreement, and will be in 13 additional US facilities by the end of this month. We have a very full product development cycle in place, and are excited about many new product features slated for release. We also just opened the Hong Kong office in 2016, hit the ground running, and hope to announce our first set of provider pilot programs there shortly. The challenges involved in caregiving are universal, and supporting this population requires solutions that are global in nature.  

OWH: What does the future of healthcare look like?

MS: Technological advances are increasing at an exponential pace, and have the potential to radically improve where we go from here. ReunionCare does love to “geek out” over exciting developments like IoT (Internet of Things). IoT products, including fall detection, in-home monitoring, medication adherence, and sensor systems, all have tremendous potential. That said, in the world of caregiving, we also need to recognize that caregivers and those receiving care may not adopt this “bleeding edge” (and often expensive) technology as quickly as the rest of the world, and have taken that into consideration.

OWH: What advice do you have for other startup leaders? For other businesswomen in healthcare?

MS: Passion, patience, and persistence. I live by the maxim of my alma mater Seton Hill University: “Hazard Yet Forward”. Unfortunately we haven't yet achieved a level playing field. I cringe at sexism and ageism when I want to compete on the value of my skills. My advice for businesswomen is to remain true to who you are. Integrity makes for a good night’s sleep.

OWH: Why are  initiatives like the Tampa Bay Caregiver Accelerator important?  What stands out to you about this year’s winners of the Pitch Competition?

MS: Robert Stephen, AARP's VP for Caregiving and Health, addressed the conference first to establish the innovation and market opportunity landscape. The numbers are staggering. By 2020, 117 million Americans will require some level of care! That represents a $72.2 billion market opportunity. But the most important number to remember is 90% of our TBCA founders are building their solution out of passion because they are or were a caregiver before. The caregiving journey is a life changing event which led our founders to wanting to improve the road for future caregivers. Passion drives us to create and nurture better solutions for a journey full of anguish, exhaustion, and joy.

This year’s pitch competition winner Marvee is a voice-initiated concierge solution that gives those hindered by limited vision, mobility, or aging challenges an easy way to communicate with family and caregivers. The People’s Choice went to Artistas Development Center. The goal in establishing the Artistas Development Center in the Tampa Bay Community is to overcome the most critical issues facing autism today: employment, independent living, and community integration. Once established, this will become a model that will serve other communities around the world. Which proves caregiving isn’t just for seniors – it’s for all of us.

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