Connected care start-up targets aging-in-place

PCL Health monitors key vitals at home, providing caregivers with peace of mind and supporting aging-in-place.

British start-up PCL Health (formerly Poonyah Care) is on a mission to change the way that the health of older people is monitored and managed at-home. The company has developed a range of (aging-in-place) hardware devices that monitor vital biomarkers, and a predictive digital platform that analyses the data to identify potential health issues.

Longevity.Technology: Our aging population is also a population that increasingly wants to remain at home as they get older – a 2018 AARP survey found that 87% of US adults over 65 wanted to age in place. New technology developments are key to enabling aging-in-place: we have our 3rd market intelligence unit report planned for this very subject. We caught up with founder and CEO Deepti Atrish to find out how PCL Health is addressing the challenge of keeping loved-ones safe and independent.

A seasoned entrepreneur, Atrish experienced the challenges first-hand, when caring for her elderly mother in India, while she herself was based in London.

“I started thinking about why there wasn’t a solution that could connect people with their families,” she says. “You had fitness trackers and some algorithms, but there wasn’t one platform where people could connect and actually see what’s going on. I realised that people don’t die because of a problem, they die because they don’t get help in time – so we need to measure and be preventive about health.”

At-home health monitoring

While people spend thousands each month on care homes or care-at-home services for older relatives, Atrish points out that “you don’t get any medical vitals” with such services.

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The PCL Health App and Personal Heath Assistant

So, in 2018, she moved back to India, formed a company, hired a team, and, within nine months, had developed the first iteration of a connected care mobile app and hardware device. The device is used to measure vitals including blood pressure, pulse oximetry, heart and respiration rate, temperature, blood glucose and ECG/EKG – essentially all the things a doctor would check in a clinic or hospital setting. The combined data is analysed by an algorithm and used to calculate an overall health score for medical and care staff, as well as family members.

“So I had a solution – I could see my mum on the app and how she’s doing today,” says Atrish. “I had a health score that I could check, and if I saw her vitals were not okay then I could ask someone to check.”

On returning to the UK, Atrish secured some projects with organisations including UCL, Homerton Hospital and some NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, and it became clear that the market wanted the hardware device to be wearable. So PCL went back to the drawing board and developed a watch-based device that captures many of the key vitals.

The PCL Health dashboard

“All the data is calculated automatically, and it gets sent to an online dashboard for a doctor’s attention, and the family can be connected on that as well,” says Atrish. “We are not a diagnostic company – we are doing preventive care.”

Device-agnostic platform

Atrish is also keen to point out that the monitoring devices are not the most important part of what PCL does.

“We are device agnostic. We have our watch and our other device which are integrated, but still we are also integrating Apple Watch, Samsung watches and Fitbit as well. So we are building an ecosystem where a lot of sensors are being integrated. Our vision is to become a data analytics company, which is ultimately going to provide disease-specific alerts.”

This openness to integration is key to PCL’s commercial model, which will see the company focus initially on the domiciliary care (in-home care) market, as well as care homes, occupational health and hospitals.

PCL Health Founder and CEO Deepti Atrish

“We are making sure that our system is easily plugged into other systems,” says Atrish. “We want to make it a seamless process, so if a company in domiciliary care has got software already, we will be able to provide them with the API key so they can integrate seamlessly with us.”

Aging-in-place: the future of connected care

Up till now, the company has been bootstrapped by Atrish, but the company has recently started fundraising. Targeting £750k to £1 million, PCL has already raised more than half of its goal.

“We’ve got some really promising investors who want to come on board,” says Atrish, who hopes to move quickly from the company’s initial focus on the UK market to target the US and beyond.

“We have a highly scalable model, solving the problem of connected care,” she adds. “We are trying to be as nimble as possible, and very modular, so we can be part of something bigger as well. We are not an EHR, we are not telemedicine, we are something small, but very important. So I see us being a global brand within couple of years.”

Images courtesy of PCL Health