Tailored Care: Aims to help family caregivers help themselves

Over a decade ago, two researchers at UW-Milwaukee set out to change the lives of caregivers who provide unpaid assistance to family members or acquaintances who have physical, psychological or developmental needs.

Rhonda Montgomery and Jessica Jacobs-Vechinski had both experienced caregiving in their personal lives. They realized there was a lack of support for the caregivers. Their company, Tailored Care Enterprises, was profiled as part of an ongoing series written by UW-Madison students.

Decades of research suggest caregiver burnout is not caused by what the family caregiver is doing.

Burnout is typically caused by how the caregiver feels about the care they provide.

In collaboration with several researchers, hundreds of care professionals, and thousands of caregivers, Montgomery and Jacobs-Vechinski created a web-based software that recognizes the impact of caregiver health on clinical outcomes and health care costs.

Four years ago, Tailored Care Enterprises developed the Tailored Caregiver Assessment and Referral System, or TCARE, that includes assessment and care planning tools and decision algorithms to assess the needs of family caregivers and strategically select resources to address them.

The smart-decision algorithms and machine-learning technology predict the key indicators that are most likely to cause the caregiver to burnout. Based on these indicators, the algorithms can automatically generate a tailored care plan for the caregiver to follow.

Each caregiver is provided with a handful of local community resources in the area, along with information to make an informed choice, including location, contact person eligibility and fees. Every few months, a short reassessment is completed to evaluate the changing needs of the caregiver and the family.

The algorithms learn each time, and act as a preventative tool for family caregiver burnout.

The technology operates on a Software as a Service — SaaS — distribution model, where a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers online. The company bases pricing based on the number of subscriptions that it sells, making it consumer friendly.
In the beginning, Montgomery and Jacobs-Vechinski had difficulties explaining to potential customers the value of the technology and product itself.

“Nobody understood the method of caregiver support that we were providing. They couldn’t understand our approach” said Jacobs-Vechinski. “Once a customer took a chance on TCARE and the team was able to prove the value proposition, other customers adapted to the product with less resistance.”

Current target customers include public and private enterprises with social workers, nurses, and discharge planners that asses and administer care to elderly patients with family caregivers. These organizations include area agencies on aging, Alzheimer’s associations, and managed care groups.

National randomized studies have successfully proven that the software technology effectively reduces stress, depression, identity discrepancies, and relationship burdens.

In Washington state, the program has saved $10 million in state and federal dollars, reduced Medicaid service use by 20 percent, and cut hospital readmissions by 14 percent.

Over 400 care professionals in 17 states used the program at the end of 2017, and have served 25,000 family caregivers to date.

“We envision creating a world of imagined and unimagined possibilities for the most forgotten stakeholder in our broken healthcare system—the unpaid family caregiver,” said Jacobs-Vechinski

Moving forward, the company’s vision is to digitize the elder care industry by closing the information gap between the stakeholders, care managers, caregivers, and care recipients, through data-driven decisions and informed choice.

“We are not fence-sitters watching the world change,” said Jacobs-Vechinski. “Instead, we are mastering the digital health revolution for the world’s aging population. In ten years, we see our company living with our foundational values and executing on them.”

The company presented to potential investors at the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in 2017.

By Margaret Van Meter
Van Meter is a recent graduate student of the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.