Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie VanBooven with the Senior Care Industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care industry share their advice. So let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us all who you are and what you do.

Aparna Pujar:

Hi, everyone. I am excited to be on this show here. My name is Aparna Pujar and I am the founder and CEO of Zemplee (Zemplee.com). Zemplee is an AI platform. It’s a technology platform for aging in place. It uses IoT sensor and artificial intelligence technology to enable self-managing elderly to live in their own homes for as long as they want, or as long as they can. We are a Silicon Valley based startup, based here in San Jose, California.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. And I love techie, cool, fun things. So, tell us. I can ask you all these questions about what’s the best thing about serving aging adults. But before we get to that, you’re a startup and you’re using AI to help seniors age in place. So tell us, in layman’s terms, a little bit more about what your product or service does.

Aparna Pujar:

So, think of our product as a smart home system that is on steroids, instead of just keeping track of whether you’ve turned off your thermostat or you’ve switched off lights or your electrical appliances, what it is doing is it’s collecting a lot of movement data from inside the house and then triangulating it to predict certain behaviors. And if those expected behaviors don’t happen, then it alerts the stakeholders. The stakeholders can be your family or community members or your caregivers or your physicians.

            And we’re not a video and we’re not a wearable. And the reason we are that is for a very clear reason because I am a caregiver for my remote parents and the product came out of my own personal experience with managing my parents who live in India. So, it’s an order of magnitude complicated for me.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Aparna Pujar:

And very quickly, I realized that any product that requires them to change their habits is not going to get the kind of adoption that we were looking for. So we went completely passive. Our systems is, once we set it, forget it. It’s operating in the background. There’s nothing that aging people have to learn or charge or recharge or things like that.

            And it just works in the background. We call it like white noise and then it’s collecting data as they’re going about their daily lives. And then it’s just keeping the families and all other people engaged and informed.

            So that’s the primary goal of the product, to just keep everyone informed so that should an action be required, they have enough background information to decide what action to take.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay. So if they don’t move or they leave the stove on for three hours, you know there’s a problem.

Aparna Pujar:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Or if they stay in the bathroom longer than 45 minutes, which maybe for my husband could be a problem, I don’t know. But anyway.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. Yeah. And then we go both nonclinical behaviors, clinical behaviors. So we can take the data and extrapolate it to whatever you want to monitor. So, on the clinical side, we do go deeper into understanding what we call as, did you have a great day today? Which means, did you take your meds? Did you eat on time? Did you have enough movement in your house? Or were you stuck in bed, or stuck in chair for an inordinate number of hours? What caused that? And how can we prevent it?

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Is it easy to set up in the house?

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. Our sensors are pretty much peel and stick.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Oh wow.

Aparna Pujar:

We can send the kit to someone’s home. They just have to plug the hub in and stick the sensors on the wall. We guide them over phone if they want to do it themselves. Or if needed, we can also send our installers to go do it for them.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. So, would you say they’d definitely have to have… I mean, I think this is obvious, but I have to ask because people will say, “Well.” You have to have internet access in their house.

Aparna Pujar:

That’s correct. Yeah, that’s right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Got it. Okay. So awesome. Love it. Sounds very interesting. Are people, from your website, are they able to go there and order it now? Or is it coming?

Aparna Pujar:

No. So right now they have to work with us to get the orders in. So we do have a system. They can either email us, or we have a little AI chatbot on the site. And if they engage on the chatbot, we can take all their information and then we’ll be able to organize the kit to reach their home. And if needed, also send the installer to install it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. Super nice. And so, what about a home care agency? Can they resell it to supplement the services that they already provide?

Aparna Pujar:

Yes. It’s something that we do work with a few agencies who are interested in doing that. We do support. We provide them an affiliate model so they can get a commission on every kit that they sell.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Okay, great. Because I think that’s a great supplement too. If you’ve got an in-home care, but you can’t either afford it or don’t really technically need it there every day, all day, having something like this set up is a nice supplement to all of that.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. Precisely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You know exactly what’s going on, even if nobody’s in the house, but a human actually is there a few days a week or whatever needs to be done. That’s really cool. So thank you for taking the time to explain that. It sounds to me like you’ve had some experience with this. Obviously, you just mentioned your parents. So what’s the best thing about serving aging adults?

Aparna Pujar:

There’s obviously the altruistic component to it. Right. For me, it has always been about womb dues. I call them womb dues. It always goes down to the fact that my parents took care of me when I needed it, when I was an infant, I was a baby. And it’s now my turn to do whatever I can in my capacity to be able to do that. It’s a very fulfilling work. I mean, I go to bed in the night thinking peacefully that I did something for someone today and nothing can replace that feeling.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

You’re right. You’re right. Absolutely. Inventing or starting a product or service or having a business that helps others have a better life, a safer life, or whatever you want to call it, is always a great way to go.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. So my next question is really all about… I mean, we have kind of answered this already, people who have been mentors to you, inspirations to you or organizations out there who you thought, man, they do a really good job. So it might be your parents, grandparents. It might be organizations around you that have inspired you to go down this road. It sounds like your parents have a lot to do with this, but who would you like to talk about?

Aparna Pujar:

From an organization standpoint, I think the one organization that I’ve would like to commend is a ARP. You don’t really hear about them until you hear about them. So that’s when you reach an age limit, then you suddenly start getting their ads.

            But in the last three, four months, I’ve been spending a lot of time on understanding what they do. And I just have a lot of respect for their organization. I think what they do is not easy, but the way they’ve done it is amazing. I can understand why they do it and what might be some of the challenges that they have overcome so far to address this industry in the market.

            And as someone who, I wasn’t from the healthcare industry, I wasn’t from the care industry at all. I come from a technology industry. I’ve now started to view this from their lens and I have a huge appreciation for what they have done. So they are absolutely a great organization to work with.

            The other one that I’m slowly getting introduced to is the Alzheimer’s Association. Because a lot of people that we work with are somewhere on the borderline case of Alzheimer’s or dementia. And for us, as a product provider, it challenges us. It’s like, how do we help them? Right.

            And then, we’ve been spending time with these organizations that are putting a lot of behind solving this problem. And that is when we feel like, okay if they can do it, we should be setting the bar high for ourselves in terms of making their job easier. So, as a technology company, that’s what we bring to the table. So, I mean, I have huge respect for those two organizations.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Well, they’re both pretty amazing. And I guess, say working with dementia and individuals with dementia, any kind of dementia, whether it’s vascular or Alzheimer’s type dementia, having that whole technology system in place that’s not really forcing them to wear a necklace or a wristband.

            They might not want to, they might not get it. They might think it’s something else, but just having them not have to notice that they’re being just monitored, not in a video way, but just, we know you’re moving.

            And if they wander, knowing if the front door opens, those kinds of things are really important. I think you’re obviously hooked up with a great organization there because there’s so many folks in so many different stages that could use that kind of help.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. And I also want to give a shout out to all the elderly caregivers. I think they have to be superhuman in doing what they do. It is a hard job. And I have a huge respect for everyone who is involved in it whether fully or peripherally, directly or indirectly. It is a physical, emotional, psychological challenge. And those who do it successfully, I mean hats off to them.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. Well, thank you. Yeah. I would say you’re right. It is amazing what humans will do for humans they love. And even if you’re the caregiver that’s hired to come in, that continuity of care and that dignity and respect those folks get from you on a regular basis, makes our lives so much better. So, we have a lot of good humans out there who do this work every day and my hats off to all of you.

            Okay. Let’s talk about online marketing a little bit. You’re in technology. So, what about online marketing? Are you guys engaged in that? We know it’s confusing sometimes. It’s ever changing. What are you all doing with online work? I’m sure that’s going to be a big part of your platform.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. So at the stage of the company where we are in, we’re not doing too much of online marketing. I mean, typically, if you define online marketing, as you know, using Google Search. We’re not doing a lot of that yet, because we’re waiting for a time when it would be right for us to do that. But we do have presence on all social media and we do actively curate our social media channels.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice.

Aparna Pujar:

We do a little bit of email marketing, but not to the extent where we would like it to be. And it’s just plan. It’s not like we cannot do it. We just waiting for the right time to do it.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah. I mean, that’s our goal. I mean, especially for this industry, it is hard because, from where our product is right now, we constantly think about who should we market this product to? Is it the families? Is it the physicians? Is it the insurance companies? So we’re trying to understand that better before we push our marketing muscle behind and go after one. Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right, it is tough.

Aparna Pujar:

[crosstalk 00:12:43]. It is tough. Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I would think, from my perspective, families would love this, but they might love it more if a doctor said, “This is the right thing for you.”

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

“I think this would help you stay at home longer. Or for your mother, stay at home longer.” And will insurance pay for it? There’s always… If they will, and that can prevent a hospitalization, absolutely they’re going to be interested in it.

            So you’re right. You have all kinds of audiences that benefit from this, knowing about this and understanding the cost savings behind it is one of the things they’re all looking for. Maybe the families, but certainly insurance and physicians. Less readmission rates, all those things. So, yeah. [crosstalk 00:13:34] It’s a deep dive into where do you start. Right.

Aparna Pujar:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers? I know you’re not providing senior care, but your product essentially is doing that with monitoring. So, what advice would you give to others, maybe who are in your shoes, maybe who are trying to think about ways to do what you do?

Aparna Pujar:

this is a hard one, and I can relate to my own experience as someone who came from a technology industry looking at this. The only advice is, it is not as simple as it seems. Yeah. It is not as simple as it looks.

            Roll up your sleeves, get to the bottom of it, understand at the deepest level, what are the challenges at all levels, right. There are challenges with the elderly person, with the families, with the ecosystem, with providers, with physicians, with payers. So, until you assemble all that and make sense of it, it will be hard for you to deliver value.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Y.

Aparna Pujar:

So, it’s best to start from scratch.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, I would say so. Yeah. You’re combining a very nice technology with the human element, which always makes it more confusing when you have to involve people. Because they have to understand the product, understand the value, understand what it means or doesn’t mean.

            And they’re right, with elder care there’s a lot of emotion. There’s some confusion oftentimes. There’s a lot of family dynamics there. So, you’ve got a lot of things to take into consideration when you’re in a tech space with seniors in mind. Absolutely. So, it sounds to me like you’re doing a good job of evaluating all of those things.

Aparna Pujar:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I can’t wait to see where you guys go. Because, I mean, right off the top of my head, I think to myself, man, there’s five people I’d like to place some sensors in their house so that I know they’re okay every day. And they probably wouldn’t mind either. Anyway, it sounds like a great idea.

            So, when you have a win in life or in business, and by that I could mean anything. Maybe it’s a birthday celebration or it’s a milestone that you’ve finally come to with your product or with a decision that you all have to make. How do you like to celebrate?

Aparna Pujar:

Wow, that’s an interesting question. So, I am a sucker for Kit-Kat bars.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Oh, that’s a good one.

Aparna Pujar:

I just go eat a Kit-Kat bar. Very simple.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s fine. That’s easy. That’s easy enough. I’ve had every answer you can imagine by now. Jump into the ocean. I had a doctor bring out a bottle of tequila from underneath his desk. He said a little shot of this goes a long way. Well, okay. And so we’ve had all kinds of things, but that’s fine. I would agree with you. A Kit-Kat bar sounds good to me anytime.

            All right. Well, thank you so much for the interview and for being on the show. We’re so excited to see where this goes and follow you on your journey. And as you do have updates, please let us know because we would like to let everybody know out there what their options are. Let our professionals know and let our consumers know what the options are. And I’ll make sure your website’s with the video. So thank you very much.

Aparna Pujar:

Thank you so much. And thanks for having me on the show.