Bliss Healthcare, Founded by MIT Sloan Grad, Starts New Web-Savvy Home Care Service
Pankaj Khare says he has devoted the past several years of his life and his 401K savings to a startup that he thinks will improve the way home care is delivered to patients. Now, with some help from Boston-area angel investors, this company, Bliss Healthcare, is finally ready to introduce a Web-supported home care service in parts of Massachusetts next week, Khare says.
Bliss, which operates out of an office in Waltham, MA, is initially rolling out its services in the Boston area and Martha’s Vineyard. The startup—which Khare says he’s been running the past three years—has recently raised $500,000 from local angel backers including Boston Harbor Angels, LaunchPad Venture Group, and Mass Medical Angels, Khare says. He got the company going while he was still a student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and continued working on it after he graduated in 2009.
Here’s some of what makes Bliss interesting. The company gives customers access to Web software that can be used to schedule nursing and other assistance in the home, pay for services, and coordinate care from physicians and other stakeholders. At the same time, the firm has nurses who help people coordinate care for patients and pre-screened clinicians and aides that provide services at people’s homes. Yet the firm doesn’t charge more than traditional home care agencies for its services, Khare says.
There’s also a compelling story of entrepreneurship at Bliss. Khare came to the States in 2000 from India, where he spent nearly a decade as an engineer in various capacities for the Indian government after graduating from what is now called the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. His wife, who did her training as a physician in India, decided to provide care to people in their homes after she moved to the U.S. She learned there was a need for services that could coordinate the fragmented care that people got from their doctors and home nurses and family members.
From her experience, an idea for a business was born.
Khare, who’s 42, says he initially started working on the technology underlying Bliss’s services about six years ago, while he was still working for Latrobe, PA-based Kennametal (NYSE:KMT), a major metalworking products and services company. He left Kennametal in 2008 and entered the MIT Sloan program, where he found himself working along many other students and faculty members who had startups in the works. In some ways, Bliss embodies Khare’s own development as an entrepreneur.
Khare reflected on what it’s been like to come here from India, where he was set up well in a coveted government job.
“When you’re a top-ranking guy, you’re lucky, you get a good job, you’re happy and you think your life is all set. But you do that for 10 years, you’ve been promoted, and you say ‘Oh, is that how I want to live my life or do I want to go and do something new?'” Khare says. “Bliss, in a way for us, it’s an outlet for all the skills that we have learned so far in our lives.”
Bliss’s team includes some Boston-area healthcare veterans too. The company’s chief medical officer, Harold Picken, is a physician who has held senior posts at Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. And Karen Wetmore, Bliss’s executive director, is a former assistant dean at Harvard Medical School, according to the company.
While there are many companies that offer home care services, few of them appear to provide the Web tools that Bliss gives its customers. Time will tell how much of a selling point Bliss’s technology is to people shopping for such services.
“A technology-enabled solution is appropriate, but much of the aged population is not technology savvy, unlike their technophile baby boomer children,” Eugene Hill, a partner who leads healthcare services investing at the venture firm SV Life Sciences, said in an e-mail yesterday.
Still, investors and entrepreneurs seem hopeful that the Internet is going to play a greater role in how we take care of granny. In October, Waltham, MA-based Care.com said it raised $20 million from New Enterprise Associates, Matrix Partners, and Trinity Ventures to support the growth of its online service for finding and rating “family care services,” which includes senior care providers as well as babysitters, housekeepers, and dog walkers. Last summer I also wrote about a growing number of startups developing Web software for home care agencies and their customers to use for scheduling and coordinating care for patients.
It’s tough to lump in Bliss with these companies, because its own Web software appears to be a means to deliver and coordinate care for people in their homes.
“It’s not the technology,” Khare says. “IT is just one enabler. But the real innovation is how you deliver care.”
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