Cera raised $70 million to assuage the chronically squeezed care sector. Its doctor CEO predicts machine learning will become commonplace.
- Cera Care CEO Ben Maruthappu says technology like machine learning will soon be "second nature" to the care industry.
- UK-based Cera provides an online marketplace that matches carers to patients and works with both private and public entities to help the care industry digitize.
- It raised $70 million this week in an equity and debt round led by US startup accelerator KairosHQ.
- Speaking to Business Insider, Maruthappu explained how machine learning and data analytics can ease the burden on a chronically understaffed care sector, both in the UK and worldwide.
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Cera Care CEO Ben Maruthappu says technology like machine learning will soon be "second nature" to the care industry.
Cera is a UK-based health tech firm that provides an online marketplace for matching carers to patients. It works with both public entities like the Barts NHS Trust (a sub-branch of the NHS) to stop bed-blocking in hospitals, and private entities like Uber to provide patient transport.
With a total staff of around 2,000, it's raised $90 million to date, including $70 million in an equity and debt round announced this week. The round was led by US startup accelerator KairosHQ, with other major backers including London-based investor Guinness Asset Management and German investor-cum-consultant Yabeo.
Speaking to Business Insider in the wake of the raise, Maruthappu said the money will be used to roll out its "Smart Care" technology to care companies across the UK.
This technology aims to digitize the whole care process: from the onboarding of users and carers and their matching; to back-office functions; to letting carers log information about their visits on their smartphones.
But more fundamentally, Maruthappu explained how - in his view - tech like machine learning will soon go hand-in-glove with a care industry still reliant on pens and paper.
"I believe, over the coming years, technology will become second nature to care services,' he said. "It's something that we have to adopt.
"It's inevitable rather than optional. If you go back 100 years, people weren't using medications like paracetamol, but now, it's bread-and-butter and part of day-to-day practice in terms of being able to treat people.
"In the same way, I think technology is going to be a key part of care, and it has to be, because, at the moment, we're seeing healthcare costs in this country increasing at 4% per year due to an aging population, while the number of carers, nurses and doctors is staying the same or hardly increasing."
The lack of care and healthcare workers is an issue in both the UK and globally. The World Health Organisation estimates there will be a healthcare workforce gap of around 14.5 million by 2030, while The Economist has described staff shortages as the UK National Health Service's "biggest problem."
At the same time, it's well-documented that populations in developed countries like the UK are aging rapidly. The UK's Office for National Statistics estimated there'll be an additional 8.2 million people aged 65 years and over in the UK 50 years from now - that's about as many people as currently live in London.
And so, when there is huge demand for services and a limited supply of people who can provide those services, the question becomes one of balance. How can the care industry balance supply and demand?
For Maruthappu, the answer to this question starts with information.
When carers at care homes make notes using pen and paper, if something happens to a person being cared for, it can take weeks or even months for that issue to be picked up, because the agency will send one of its staff to drive round to these people's homes, pick up the notes, and review them. The goal of Cera's tech is to make things happen much faster.
"When information is logged on Cera's app, Cera staff are able to see it immediately, as are family members, as are carers, all of which helps when it comes to making real-time decision-making," Maruthappu explained.
This information could be symptoms that people being cared for are experiencing; medications they're taking; what they're eating and drinking; their sleep; their mood.
But it's the use of machine learning and data analytics to analyze this information that could truly help both the understaffed care industry and healthcare more broadly.
"We analyze this information using data analytics and machine learning and use it to identify subtle patterns in that person's health that may be changing. This allows us to predict the risk of someone's health getting worse and ending up in hospital."
As such, Maruthappu reckons, the UK's National Health Service will be helped significantly because people can be treated before they need to go to hospital. And ultimately, he thinks the world's care sector, not just Britain's, is on the cusp of treating technology as second nature.
"I think, in a similar way, we're going to see the care sector adopt more and more technology across Europe and North America because people will see that this is a key part of providing a high-quality service that sustainable and efficient."
"The time for innovative solutions is now."
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