March 22 2021

Nectarine Health: helping seniors to age in place.

Brighter’s subsidiary Nectarine Health is on a mission to help seniors live in their homes for longer. The company’s story is one of clever technology, identifying an unmet need, and making the decision to pivot in a new direction.

Thanks to advances in health, people around the world are living longer than ever before. A report from the United Nations in 2017 put the global population aged 60 and over at 962 million. The UN projected this figure would more than double to 2.1 billion by 2050. In the 80 and over bracket, the UN foresees a threefold increase over the same period – from 137 million to 425 million.

According to a 2018 survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 76% of people aged 50 and over would like to remain in their homes for as long as possible. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this view, with the tragic impact of the virus on care homes now well known.

“The pandemic has massively accelerated the trend of people wanting to stay living in their homes for longer.”

“The pandemic has massively accelerated the trend of people wanting to stay living in their homes for longer,” says Nectarine Health CEO, Matthias Tietze. “At the same time, there is a structural necessity to this trend. With elderly populations growing around the world, healthcare systems and care homes are increasingly overburdened. Simply put, our societies need seniors to live at home for longer.”

“For this to become a reality at scale, seniors and the people caring for them need simple and fit-for-purpose tools that monitor health over time, detect falls in the home, and raise the alarm when emergency assistance is needed. This is where our solution comes in,” says Tietze.

From fall detection, to fall prevention
The heart of the Nectarine® Health home system is a lightweight wristband with a battery life of up to 12 months. It comes with a network hub and two satellite units that are small enough to plug directly into wall sockets in the wristband wearer’s home. This creates a network that streams relevant data on movement, sleep and other parameters from the senior’s wristband to a cloud platform. The data is automatically analyzed and presented to carers through a mobile app.

“The solution originated around automatic fall detection, but now it’s really about preventing falls from happening in the first place.”

“The solution originated around automatic fall detection, but now it’s really about preventing falls from happening in the first place,” says Tietze. “The data that the wristband collects helps carers to spot any anomalies that may indicate a deterioration in the wearer’s health. We cannot necessarily tell carers what the potential issue is, but we can alert them so they provide any assistance that may be needed.”

“Sleep fragmentation is a big indicator of wellbeing. If you see that someone is getting out of bed a lot during the night, it could indicate a health issue. Getting up at night also increases the risk of a hard fall,” he says.

While other players providing digital solutions for seniors often focus on care home needs, Nectarine Health is developing every aspect of its ecosystem around private residences. The wristband and network units come in a single box with an intuitive plug-and-play setup. When the long-life battery in the wristband does start to run low, Nectarine Health receives an alert and a new wristband is sent to the wearer.

“We’ve worked hard to make the solution as non-intrusive as possible,” says Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Pierrou. “The wristband does not interrupt daily life and we’ve developed it in such a way as to be respectful of the privacy and integrity of the individual. It picks up only those insights that add value and they are displayed through the app in a user friendly way.”

US launch in 2H 2021
Tietze and Pierrou both joined Nectarine Health in the second half of 2019, shortly before it was acquired by Brighter. This was when the company shifted its product development focus and pivoted away from care homes towards private residences.

Today, Nectarine Health employs some 30 people, the majority of whom work in developing the hardware, software and AI capabilities of its solution. The team has also added capabilities in marketing, sales and commercialization.

In advance of launching its wristband solution in the United States in the second half of 2021, Nectarine Health will be running a test phase for 50 users. The aim is to collect insights that can be assimilated with the data the company has already gathered from earlier work in Swedish care homes. This will help in making any necessary tweaks to its data models ahead of the US launch.

“The developers at Nectarine Health are extremely skilled in creating solutions for this industry,” says Tietze. “But we’re a small team, so we are selective in where we put our efforts. While there are big opportunities globally for our solution, we chose to focus on the US as it’s a market with a higher propensity for acceptance to pay for healthcare.”

The company is already having conversations with other players in the care ecosystem, including emergency response providers. The team is also putting a lot of effort into its customer acquisition strategy.

“One of the biggest challenges is clearly identifying the senior user, their family and how we reach them,” says Tietze. “This is a huge market niche, but it’s still niche. So we’re spending a lot of time on working out how we reach the customer and bring out the key elements of our solution.”

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