By Chee Jo-Ey
AS the world’s population ages, the healthcare system of every country will face significant challenges to meet the needs of an ageing population.
The ageing is the result of the continued decline in fertility rates and increased life expectancy. This demographic change has resulted in increasing numbers and proportions of people who are over 60. As a result, the first time in history when there will be more older people than younger people is rapidly approaching.
Homage is a caregiving services platform that brings together qualified professionals via an app to provide on-demand services to all. The platform believes in redefining home care by matching experienced local caregivers through patent smart technology to those in need, allowing seniors to age in place at home with grace, control and dignity.
Since its founding, Homage has expanded rapidly in both Singapore and Malaysia. Homage CEO and co-founder Gillian Tee tells FocusM: “We have grown our business-to-business (B2B) business more than 400% in 2019, and six-fold in our Malaysian operations since the beginning of the year. We also have the largest fully-screened pool of close to 2,000 qualified care professionals in Southeast Asia.”
Need to enrich caregiving ecosystem
Almost 90% of seniors want to age in place, according to Tee. Here is where the platform swoops in to provide care for senior loved ones and their families, ensuring that individuals are able to get care in the comfort of their own home.
On the other side, the platform supports a pool of Care Pros made up of local caregivers and nurses who are at the crux of Homage.
“Almost 80% of the caregivers on the platform are women and we are heading towards professionalising caregiving services and empowering individuals to build their profession by giving them work flexibility and better pay,” Tee says.
With Homage, a key challenge is in creating awareness of the types of long-term care needs in the region. There is a strong need to improve the caregiving ecosystem in the region and to build the infrastructure required to support the needs of the rapidly ageing population.
Most elderly people in almost all Southeast Asian countries live with their children. Needless to say, family support and living arrangements for older people have become increasingly important. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has developed guidelines that help countries to understand the types of programmes they can put in place to improve healthcare settings and cities so they are better suited to the needs of older people.
“Acute and community hospitals, voluntary welfare organisations and care service providers like Homage should work hand-in-hand to raise public awareness of the care options available for seniors in our community and I believe the era of partnerships in this point in time is only getting started,” Tee says.
Different from others
“It’s how we combine a high-touch approach in how we screen, train and curate each care professional for quality care with high tech, an end-to-end platform that allows us to scale quality and personalised care to various types of users, both individual families as well as organisations. Families and organisations enjoy the flexibility that our platform provides,” Tee says.
With the Homage app, people can easily request for care anywhere, anytime, and have the option of requesting for visits as short as an hour, to round-the-clock care.
The chat function also allows for real-time updates, giving care managers peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are in good hands.
All the Care Pros are fully screened and assessed for experience, skill sets and a range of competencies relevant to caregiving as well as nursing proficiencies. This allows the platform to assign and match the best-suited caregiver according to the care needs and profile of the care recipient.
“For example, our matching system factors in languages, gender and core skill sets, allowing them to better connect with seniors with the common experiences they share with the reduced language barrier,” Tee explains.
In caregiving, skills are important but Tee believes having the passion to serve plays a big part too in the quality of care delivered.
There has been healthy growth in Homage’s market capitalisation — more than 400% since 2017. Homage currently operates in Singapore and Malaysia and plans to expand its services across Asia over the next two years.
“For the markets in our pipeline, we are definitely keen on expanding our work in emerging countries where technology has yet to be tapped for caregiving and healthcare. We want to enter these markets and establish our work on the ground, to bridge the gaps and limitations by providing our solution to deliver personalised and holistic care and help more families across the region,” Tee says.
How it started
“I grew up with an elderly caregiver who became the hallmark of my childhood. She took care of me from the time I was born to when I was 12, which was when she passed away. Homage is a way for me to pay tribute to her. She was a key motivating force behind our mission to build a future where families are able to access and afford the type of aged care support they need and trust.
“After years of living in the US, when I moved home to be closer to family, I was faced with the problem firsthand when personal family members needed long-term care solutions,” Tee relates.
With Homage, she wanted to be a part of the solution to mobilise and tap into a local qualified workforce who could provide respite care to the community.
“First and foremost, we needed people to realise that caregiving is an ‘us’ issue and not a ‘them’ issue and has the potential to impact every individual in Singapore and beyond and so we focused on reaching out to those who have experience being a caregiver and have the ‘heart’ and skills to contribute. Seeing how our caregiver pool has grown has been incredibly inspiring,” Tee says.
This is where the idea of Homage was born back in 2016 and it has come a long way since. Homage means paying respect to an individual you hold in high regard.
“For me, it’s about giving esteem and dignity back to the people who have given us so much. My childhood caregiver showed me that it was the everyday little moments where you were given care that really mattered and that stays with you over time. Homage is about enabling people to receive this kind of personalised care everyday, where small personal moments add up,” Tee says. — April 16, 2020