Kian Saneii, Founder and CEO and Richard Della Penna, MD, CMO, Independa
Carol, a widow, age 77, lives in a senior living community, miles away from her only daughter, Julia, who resides in New York. Growing up and living in New Jersey, Carol insists on being close to her local community friends. Although surrounded by her peers, Carol often longs to visit with her daughter, spend time with her grandchildren, and participate in their daily activities.
Julia on the other hand, is caught in an endless cycle of long work hours while also launching a side hustle, managing three kids, and trying to find time for herself and her husband. As calendars fill up and to-do lists get longer, it has become overwhelming for Julia to take time out of her grueling daily drill to drive two hours every weekend to meet her mother, all with the kids in tow. Stories, like this one, reflect how busy lives and long miles often get in the way of our connection with our loved ones, especially older family members who are not as mobile as they once were.
Situations like Carol and Julia’s have only intensified as families everywhere grapple with the “new normal” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. How do we keep our aging parents engaged and connected during these trying times? How do we save them from feeling isolated, lonely, and even depressed despite the physical distancing and COVID-19 restrictions?
Look no further than California-based Independa—a company that has come up with a simple and effective platform to address these questions and more. Even before COVID-19, loneliness, isolation, and depression were highly prevalent among older adults. Now more than ever, older adults need safe social interaction and engagement, and now with Independa, that’s exactly what they get. “We have built a remote engagement, education, and care platform to enable organizations and families to connect with the most expensive, vulnerable, and hardest-to-reach demographic in healthcare,” says Kian Saneii, founder and CEO of Independa. Independa enables organizations like healthcare providers, home care, senior living communities, pharmacies, and individuals alike to cost-effectively enable older adults to remain at their residence longer, safer, and more comfortably, avoiding social isolation and even potentially eliminating the next level of care.
The Beginning Chapters
The story of Independa traces back to over a decade ago, when Saneii, who has worked in the technology sector for 30 years, realized that the digital world had barely made a foothold in positively impacting the lives of older adults. Recalling his personal experiences, he remarks, “I wondered why it is that after decades into the digital revolution, the technology brand for older adults is still ‘I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.’” An avid techie, Saneii was also aware of the fact that technology and older adults had traditionally not gone hand-in-hand. The solution seemed almost too obvious. While many older adults still find using computers, laptops, tablets, and even smartphones to be perplexing, they are used to the good old TV. And that, made all the difference!
In the early stages, Saneii worked closely with IDEO—a leading global design and consulting firm—to validate the idea and build a platform to leverage the television and Internet for person-to-person engagement, not just patient engagement. With his novel idea, Saneii approached Richard D. Della Penna, MD, who at the time was a member of the Veteran Administration’s National Geriatrics and Gerontology Advisory Commission and the Board of Directors of the National Alzheimer’s Association. Dr. Della Penna has extensive experience in the field of elder care, after three decades at Kaiser Permanente, where he held roles such as Medical Director of the Kaiser Permanente Aging Network and the National Clinical Lead for Elder and Palliative Care.
As a holistic system to support older adults, Independa was immediately different from the siloed solutions already on the market that focused on a singular function like telemedicine, social engagement, or cognitive tools.
Instead of an illness-centric or episode-centric platform, Independa is about wellness, social engagement, health tracking, and connection.
By reaching those who are otherwise unreachable, we can catch little things before they become significant health problems
In no time, Dr. Della Penna realized that Independa was a solution long overdue, and has been serving as Chief Medical Officer at Independa ever since.
Simplicity and Engagement at the Core
The Independa platform is intuitive and engaging, designed to connect older adults with their family, companions, and caregivers in the easiest way possible. The Independa AnyTV Companion™ is a candy bar-sized device that turns any TV with an HDMI connection into a window to the world, enabling bi-directional engagement between older adults and with whomever they need to stay connected. The plug-and-play installation eliminates the need for costly and cumbersome computers or tablets, and it doesn’t require new skills, passwords, virus scans, software updates, or battery charges.
Independa provides users with all they need to easily set up the system in minutes, including an HD internet chat camera for video chats with family, friends, and healthcare providers. The Independa-enabled TV can be easily navigated using a simple remote, meaning there’s no hassle of learning complicated or new technology. Moreover, Dish Network has integrated its voice remote technology with Independa’s AnyTV Companion™, enabling users to engage with their Independa system through voice commands.
LG Electronics, the world leader in commercial televisions for hospitality and hospital markets, has been a strategic partner and investor in Independa. Every LG commercial TV is embedded with the Independa platform, which makes it easy for senior healthcare facilities and communities to implement Independa. “We have built a platform which has turned out to be really valuable for healthcare, not just for elder care. By reaching those who are otherwise unreachable, we can catch little things before they become significant health problems,” Saneii adds.
Engage the Independa Way
Independa integrates three pillars of value—personal and social connection and engagement, organizational efficiencies, and remote care. Various features and functionalities, such as video chats, photo sharing, and messaging connect the older adult to family and friends. A personal calendar feature can be used to set reminders for important events, like a grandchild’s birthday, as well as alerts for daily activities and medication reminders. All of which pop up on the TV. Using Independa Life Stories, one can also capture their loved one’s precious memories and insightful wisdom, preserving their legacy for the whole family and generations to come. Older adults can also listen to a selection of their favorite music right through the TV.
The second pillar is for improving organizational efficiency and delivering more effective care. Organizations can broadcast messages, menus and surveys, along with educational, marketing or compliance videos directly to an individual’s TV. Easily engage, inform, educate, and connect with residents on a broad range of topics and services. A community calendar, be it for a virtual home care community, health plan or insurance provider, or a senior living setting can be easily and quickly disseminated so no one is ever left out again.
The platform also allows staff and family members to set reminders so that important information and alerts are delivered through phone calls, in case the person is not in front of the TV. Staff can leverage Independa’s central dashboard to record and centralize resident health metrics and information in the cloud, which their families can also access, thereby eliminating individual inquiries that take staff time to answer.
Regarding the third pillar of value, Saneii mentions, “In terms of remote care, we integrate across multiple health devices and standards so that users can have one place to set reports, thresholds, new rules, alerts, and administration. Further, we integrate directly with digital devices, but also allow users able to enter this information right on TV or via the Independa Mobile App, smart speakers, such as Alexa, or the Dish remote control.” As an enterprise solution, Independa delivers a wide range of features important to larger organizations, including a cloud-based architecture, single sign-on, role-based authentication, HIPAA compliance, hierarchical management, security, FDA Class 1 certification.
Delivering Value across the Care Continuum
Independa’s award-winning, one-of-a-kind solution has proved crucial across the continuum of care, from hospital to home and everything in between—from senior living, home health, home care, insurance companies all the way to consumers. Saneii remarks, “We have also partnered with telcos and cable companies that are extending their footprint in the home health space with our platform. This opens up a whole new way of engaging older adults, even in rural areas, who cannot afford computers, smartphones, and tablets. Our partners take us to providers and settings including post discharge and home health teams, ACOs, care management programs and even remote patient engagement from doctor offices”. The platform also enables doctors and in some situations pharmacists to remotely attend to patients and bill for their visit, a feature that’s more important nowadays than ever.
With the current situation in mind, Saneii goes on to mention, “We are talking to insurance companies as well for Medicare Advantage plans for population health. Pharmacy, population health, Medicare Advantage—these are all the areas where COVID is highlighting the need to provide an effective remote engagement and care platform for those that are hardest to reach and most at risk.” In response to growing consumer demand, specifically due to COVID-19, Independa has launched directly into the consumer market.
"We have built a remote engagement, education and care platform to enable organizations to reach the most expensive, vulnerable, and hardest-to-reach demographic in healthcare"
Building a Legacy for Years to Come
With an aim to enhance its solution further, Independa is constantly adding new features and partnerships so that its platform can be used more broadly in both enterprise and consumer settings. For Independa, the focus was never on patient engagement but rather “person” engagement. What’s important is that older adults do not feel they are being micro-managed and patronized or feel the guilt of being a burden to their families.
It is safe to say that Independa’s steadfast vision and determined efforts are definitely paying off—people like Carol are no longer separated from their families, despite the miles that separate them. They can now share each precious moment from the comfort and safety of their own homes–physically isolated for the time being, but still socially connected and happy.