We talked to Laura Mitchell of GrandCare about its technology enabled senior care solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Laura Mitchell: We’re really fortunate. My husband and I can mostly work from home, and our two boys are doing their best to adjust to online learning. The dogs have never been happier. Everyone is as safe as they can be, but it is a big adjustment for everyone, and we certainly are eager for this to be behind us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GrandCare.
Laura Mitchell: Back in 2005, I was one of the founding members of GrandCare Systems. Our big idea was to use technology to enable individuals to be safer, more connected, and independent at home. We knew that this was a potentially huge market due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. I naturally gravitated to marketing, especially guerilla-style marketing, due to our very limited budget. I did take some time away from GrandCare for a few years to start a second company, a marketing consulting company called LMC. A little over a year ago, I was asked to return to GrandCare as CEO, and I eagerly accepted. Obviously, COVID accelerated our industry into overdrive, so there is never a dull moment here.
How does GrandCare innovate?
Laura Mitchell: GrandCare’s main goal is to provide a holistic and fully-featured system that addresses all needs for a person trying to live independently, which includes: physical, emotional, and cognitive. The GrandCare touchscreen is the centerpiece and acts as a source of information, cognitive assists, family connection, and entertainment. The resident enjoys the music, trivia, and games while being reminded when to take medications or engaged in one-touch.
HIPAA-compliant video conferencing. Optional sensors can be added to any GrandCare System to track vitals and activity patterns. Caregivers can set up alert rules to be notified if something seems wrong such as excessive weight gain, out-of-range blood pressure or blood sugar, or even just abnormal motion.
There are really two main drivers of innovation at GrandCare. The first is that we keep our eye on emerging technologies. When we feel that they are mature and reliable enough, we look at how we can use them to further the GrandCare mission. The second main source of innovation is our customers. They often just tell us what they need, and if it makes sense for others, we try to continuously innovate and improve. I think it’s why we have such a loyal customer base.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Laura Mitchell: On the surface, we’re doing the same thing a lot of other companies are doing: staying home a lot. We have an entire floor of an office building, and these days there are only one or two people there. Everyone else is working from home, but we are connected via slack, google drive, and zoom meetings. Fortunately, everyone at GrandCare is healthy, thank goodness. But the real story is that business has been booming. Every senior in America, no matter where they live, has been cut off from their families and their health care providers, and GrandCare is a tool that can help them. Another growing marketplace is the disability space. GrandCare is a powerful technology for supporting independence, and suddenly everyone seems to recognize that. Payers are also approaching us in droves as they struggle to meet their medical loss ratio. It feels like we’ve been selling umbrellas for 15 years, and 2020 has been one huge thunderstorm.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Laura Mitchell: There are always difficult choices. Which markets to pursue, which product features to implement next, even who to partner with as we move forward. But GrandCare is a very agile company despite having been around for 15 years. If something isn’t working, we pivot quickly and focus on only a few select marketplaces.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and GrandCare in the future?
Laura Mitchell: This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. I am much more productive if I keep a solid balance between work, family, and self-care. It would be easy to simply never stop working. I’m working at home, and there’s always something big and urgent going on with GrandCare. So I actively schedule breaks in my calendar, such as going for a run with my son (we try to do it daily) or taking the dogs for a walk. This not only holds me accountable but also provides a necessary reset (even when I don’t know I need it). I also love to cook, so that’s a nice stress reliever for me, plus having dinner as a family is a bonus. Keeping myself and my family healthy relieves a lot of personal stress and ensures that I’m at my best for GrandCare. As far as the rest of the GrandCare team, they’re used to a high-stress, fast-paced environment. They’re pros at it. But I do make sure they are taking care of themselves, too. In fact, as I write this, I am ordering pizza and beverages to be delivered to the homes of my staff, and we are having a live zoom pizza (a zoomza) party. Not as great as the real thing, but it adds a little bit of fun, which we all need right now.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Laura Mitchell: We do have competitors, but it’s also true that GrandCare is somewhat peerless. We’ve been innovating for 15 years, and while we waited for the market to be ready, we continued to build, grow, and improve.
There are products that do activity monitoring. There are products that do vitals monitoring. There are products that do telehealth and other socialization features. But if you want all of those features in one platform that has been thoroughly tested and tried, you come to GrandCare.
Your final thoughts?
Laura Mitchell: We are very grateful. A lot of people are really hurting right now. Some of them are sick or have loved ones who are ill. Some of them are going through extreme economic hardships. We are feeling fortunate that so far, we are in good health. But we are even more grateful that we get to be one of the helpers in this pandemic. Loneliness and isolation have been a problem for years, and finally, it’s coming to the forefront that we can’t allow residents to be disconnected. We get to offer some joy, connection, and entertainment to hopefully improve life right now. We get to offer peace of mind and remote monitoring options to allow someone to be safer and more independent at home. And obviously, avoid going to the clinic or hospital if possible. We will continue to improve and meet our customers’ needs, which will better the offering for generations to come.
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