One to Watch: Adam Jahnke
17 October 2017 at 8:56 am
Adam Jahnke is the co-founder and CEO of Umps Health which uses smart technology to support older people and their care providers. He is One to Watch.
A total of 60 of Australia’s brightest young changemakers have been selected by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) to take part in the 2017 Young Social Pioneers (YSP) program. It is Australia’s first, and only, national youth entrepreneurship incubator designed exclusively for young people leading initiatives that respond to society’s most pressing challenges. In this mini-series Pro Bono News speaks to a pioneer from each of the nine categories across the program about the differences they are hoping to make.
In 2016, after his grandpa was hospitalised due to a fall at home, Jahnke, a 27-year-old technology and public health professional from Melbourne, turned to tech to help the family.
The result was Umps Health.
Umps Health uses machine learning enabled power plugs and lighting to detect older people’s’ interactions with everyday home appliances.
When behaviour is out of the norm alerts are raised to family members and carers, empowering them to intervene early and prevent an incident.
Umps Health is now partnering with Carers Australia, to provide their service free-of-charge to working carers and young carers to help those with caregiving responsibilities to return to work or school while caring for someone they love.
On Tuesday they launch a crowdfunding campaign, supported by the ING Dreamstarter program, to fund this initiative.
Jahnke has also been selected for the Young Social Pioneers program as part of the Health Stream, which was supported by Abbott.
Here he talks to Pro Bono News about how he was inspired by his “Umps”, enabling carers to be digitally present anytime, anywhere and why he has stopped asking himself “what’s next?”
What motivated you to start Umps Health?
A bit more than 12 months ago now, my grandpa fell over in his home and at the same time, my grandma on the other side of my family was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and so all of a sudden my family was faced with the practicality of having to deliver care to both of these people. And it kind of fell on my dad and my uncle and my sister and I, we were the only kind of family that were here in Melbourne. And so we were juggling visits to the hospital, with the palliative care centre, medication management, all that sort of stuff, all the while working full time.
And so my background is in technology and so I looked to tech to see if there was anything that could support my family but found that a lot of what was out there, didn’t really suit the needs of my grandpa or suit the needs of us as carers. Both my grandparents actually had the industry standard in falls detection, or incident detection, which is a pendant that’s worn around the neck and you press it if you fall over. But the problem with that is you only find out about something after it happens, and the kicker was, even when my grandpa fell, he wasn’t wearing it, and that is actually really common. I was at a conference last week where a home care provider said that of the thousands of people of their clients that have the pendants more than 70 per cent of them aren’t wearing it, so that was just an example of how the technology hasn’t been designed to suit the older person’s needs.
So I got our team together, the Umps Health team, and we built just a little solution for my grandpa. At that time it was primarily me working with some friends. But that actually worked really well for us. The first appointment was actually in my grandpa’s home and my cousins and I all call him “Umps” so that’s where the name Umps Health comes from. So that’s kind of the story behind how we got started.
How does Umps Health work?
We use a small plug that fits between any appliance in the wall socket, so it could be the kettle, TV, microwave or fridge, anything that plugs into the wall. We measure current and we get an idea of how those appliances are being used, when they are being switched on and off, when the fridge is being opened and shut, we bring that information into our software platform and we use data analytics to establish a baseline pattern of behaviour and then when we detect abnormalities, we correlate that with clinical insights and then raise an alert to a family member. So in essence our technology is measuring what is called activities of daily living, cooking, cleaning, eating, sleeping, and matching changes in those which are strong predictors of incidences.
So in the solution that we’ve got, we’ve introduced a strong predictive capability and in some of the deployments that we’ve got we’ve been able to retrospectively model an alert that predicts an incident one week in advance from that occurring. But we’ve also maintained an emphasis on the passiveness of the solution so the older person doesn’t have to interact with it, or change their routine. And also preserving the privacy and dignity of the older person, so steering away from any cameras or motion sensors or anything intrusive.
What are your aims?
So there are two groups of people that we really hope to have an impact on and support. The first are older people themselves. So most older people, like my grandpa, want to age in their own homes. But unfortunately it is usually an incident, like a fall or something in the home, that leads to hospitalisation and it is usually that trigger event that pushes people into institutional care. And so we hope that by very early detection and prediction of incidents, we can enable family members to intervene and prevent people from going into institutional care so they can maintain their independence and safety at home.
One of the reasons we’re focusing on that is that there is actually 100,000 fall related hospitalisations each year in Australia, so the numbers are actually astronomical.
The second group of people that we’re aiming to support are carers of old people or family caregivers. So there are 2.8 million people in Australia that are providing this kind of care to a loved one, so that is one in eight people. On average people deliver 13 hours of care per week in an unpaid capacity, but for many of that group it could be 20, 30 or 40 hours of care per week.
A lot of that time is spent checking in on people, and just understanding their well being and so because there is that such intense re quirement a really large proportion of carers have opted out of the workforce – so 44 per cent of primary carers, they’re the key person the person is dependent on, and then rates of depression also climb dramatically as caring responsibility increases. So we hope that by providing real time access to insight, so that a carer can be digitally present with the older person anywhere at any time, we can allow these carers to potentially return to part time work, or even if they are a young carer, return to school and provide them with some peace of mind as well.
So it is that kind of dual pronged approach with where we want to go to create impact.
You’re partnering with Carers Australia?
We are partnering with Carers Australia at the moment to run a specific campaign where we are trying to provide our service free of charge to a group of vulnerable carers. And so it is actually part of the ING Dreamstarter program, and what we’re asking is from 17 October to 17 November, we’re going out to the public to crowdfund an initiative that would cover the cost of our service to be provided to a group of carers that Carers Australia are identifying. And then ING will match dollar for dollar the amount we raise up to the first $14,500.
So we’re very much focusing on the whole initiative to get people back to work but we’re also focusing on young carers to keep them in school. And then also it will allow us to collect some data which will allow us to optimise our analytics platform in parallel.
How do you find leading an organisation in this space at a relatively young age?
I am probably fortunate that I have had a bit of experience in corporate and I actually lean on that a lot. So before this I worked for Ericsson and before that I worked for Cochlear in Beijing. But I also was very conscious that I am an early to mid-career professional and when I started this business I had no line management experience, I had a little bit of enterprise engagement and government relations experience but I was certainly by no means an expert, but I had a good understanding of my strengths. And I think I have certainly always valued my ability to empathise with people and I think that was quite important when thinking about a younger person approaching a problem with aged care, because it is not necessarily my lived experience what everyone has gone through.
We had a big emphasis on apprenticing with the problem, so I immediately went out when deciding to take the leap with Umps Health and interviewed over 60 older people and caregivers to make sure that I had that understanding. And then I have also established an advisory group of advisors as well and they range from very senior people in organisations with 20 plus years of sales experience, to people at the National Ageing Research Institute, that are deeply embedded in aged care, and then we’ve got people who are very senior in the sort of the startup sphere as well. People have been very generous with their time and support, and I’ve approached it with a lot of humility as well, understanding where I need support too. So I’ve found it easy to navigate and access support structures and the program that FYA run as well is part of that structure for me too.
What advice would you give to other young people who want to make a difference?
I’m just going to think on the fly here, but what I think is important is if someone is seeking to start out a business or social initiative, it isn’t an easy feat and you truly need to be wedded to the problem. It needs to be something that you really care about that you’re willing to dedicate the time to, not just for the next one year but the next five to 10 years because it is not really a flash in the pan type thing. You also need to be disciplined enough to deeply engage with the problem, complex social problems typically have a whole set of systems and infrastructure that are propelling them and keeping them up and it takes a lot of analysis to dive in and truly understand it as well. That is a lot of cognitive effort and time.
I think the advice that I would give is that possibly for younger people the tendency might be to look outwards, and try and find a problem that they want to work on but I think there is something to be said for looking inwards first and understanding yourself and understanding your unique value and your unique strengths and weaknesses, and spending some time learning that. And then if you understand that, as you navigate the world you will come across issues that make you angry, that make you upset, that you think need to change and then that is how you know it is your call, something you are willing to dedicate your time to. So maybe it is not just about jumping into it, maybe it is about looking inwards, understanding yourself and then things will come along.
What are you hoping to get out of the YSP program?
The difference between the YSP program and other business accelerator programs for me has been the emphasis on personal development not just necessarily the business and the initiative. So we’ve only had one workshop so far, the second one is coming up, but the theme is very much around supporting us as individuals to grow and develop whether that is leadership skills, organisational management skills, even public speaking skills, pitching skills and so for me it has been great to kind of take that step back out of the business a little bit and focus on my own personal development in those areas.
Upon the conclusion of the YSP program I’m hoping I’m more equipped to lead an organisation like Umps Health and particularly as we begin to expand out our team. But the emphasis for me is on personal development and growth.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
That is a question that lots of people ask me and it is something that I used to maybe think I had to have an answer for when I went for job interviews and stuff, but if you had asked me one year ago if I would be here, there would be no way that I could have predicted that. So I have kind of stepped back and stopped dedicating myself to where I’ll be in five years, and actually I have found in starting up Umphs Health, I have actually found a really good space where both in the business and in my personal life I am quite fulfilled and happy. So I have felt less of the need to have that aspiration of what’s next, what’s next and from a personal perspective I am very much enjoying my time at the moment.
From the business perspective I can talk about where we want to be in five years time because that is like a business need. Within the next 12 months we would like a commercial deployment with a large care provider, one of the leading ones in Australia. Beyond that in 2018 and 2019, we plan to start looking overseas, specifically at the UK, and potentially China and the US. And so in the next five years I see Umps Health having a bit more of a geographic presence in the world and truly understanding our unique position in creating a better world for older people and carers as well.