In few other areas is it as difficult to comparison shop and research than for healthcare services.
From his home in Connecticut, Ira Yellen experienced firsthand the dizzying array of choices in selecting home health agencies for his mother's care in Florida. Relying on more than 35 years of experience in public relations, marketing, advertising and design, and his passion for helping others navigate the system, Yellen introduced the pilot of a new free-to-consumer website in October, HomecareMatchKiosk.com, that offers nearly 200 home care, home healthcare and hospice service listings in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island.
Next year, he says the site will expand to include home care services nationwide.
"HomecareMatchKiosk's goal is to help those who search for private pay homecare become more educated, discerning and proactive consumers," Yellen said. "We created the site with the belief that that healthcare reform will benefit those who educate themselves about all their options and are proactive in their choices."
"After working with clients in healthcare and home care, and managing home care choices for my wife's family and mine, it became clear that there was a huge need to help consumers find the right home care service match for our elder relatives."
Based in Glastonbury, HomecareMatchKiosk is building up its visibility through pay per click, search engine optimization and agency/customer referrals. At the same time, Yellen and his partners — Ted Dinsmore, a healthcare technology expert, and Steve Pelletier, an Internet expert — are seeking input from consumers that will help evolve the site's content and functionality.
Yellen expects the site to be profitable by the end of next year with an estimated net profit of 30 to 40 percent by the end of 2014. He says he's spending about 60 percent of his time on this new venture, while keeping his First Experience Communications operation running too.
Initially, the site encourages users to visit its education and information pages to learn about their options before searching for a quality compatible agency. Visitors then begin a four-step process to locate agencies, searching by location, medical condition of the loved one and the level of assistance required to perform daily living functions such as bathing, dressing, walking, cooking, housekeeping, taking medications, companionship and transportation. The search then yields a list of up to four agencies, each with contact information, that best match the visitor's search criteria.
The agencies that are currently listed on HomecareMatchKiosk.com — as well as the agencies that will be listed as the site expands geographically — come from states' professional home care associations. The site will list agencies that are members of their state association and listed by that state's regulatory and licensed departments. The agencies listed have been screened and researched to make sure that the information listed on the website is as accurate as possible. Each agency's listing on HomecarematchKiosk.com includes detailed information provided by the agency and from public records.
The site incorporates tracking analytics to measure conversions or the queries for each agency. Agencies will receive a report detailing leads generated from the site.
"After the pilot site's beta test period, each agency will pay a subscription fee to be listed, but they do not (and will not) receive preferential treatment in how they are positioned or listed on the website," Yellen said. "The search process, which relies on the consumer's unique criteria, is completely objective and non-biased."
Yellen's goal is to recruit 9,000 high quality agencies to sign up for the site over the next two years with revenue coming from the yearly subscription per agency plus sponsorships.
"We will review our pilot test on a regular basis and modify accordingly from feedback from consumers and agencies," Yellen said. "If necessary, we will continue the pilot testing until the content/use or technical issues are corrected. If the pilot phase is successful, we will start a national campaign to recruit agencies in other states during the next year."
The company has been chosen by Connecticut Innovations and the Connecticut Technology Council as one of the top 75 Tech Companies to Watch.
Yellen feels it is critical that he and his partners not only be out in the marketplace promoting the company, but also seeing what else is being offered.
"Our success will only occur if we pay attention to our competitors, our markets and our users (consumers and home care agencies)," he said. "The health care market will continue to experience tremendous changes in the journey to provide us with cost-effective and quality care. Companies that understand this will succeed. Hopefully, HomecareMatchKiosk.com will be one of them."
John Lahtinen is a freelance writer based in Farmington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.