Before we obtained a 1-800 number, we used to give out our personal cellphone numbers to our clients' families and caregivers so that they can contact us. To our surprise, most people who have our numbers texted us way more often than those who did call, it was as if we were texting with a friend. What we learned from this is that both our clients' families (baby boomers) and caregivers are very comfortable with texting with colleagues and managers for professional purposes.
Eventually we got ourselves a 1-800 number from Twilio and set up Front to send and receive text messages. While Front is great at handling single threaded conversations, it has a few glaring drawbacks:
- it isn't HIPAA compliant. We exchange personal health information with client's families and caregivers all the time, text messages isn't a secure way to handle sensitive personal health information
- we needed a way to create a mutual chat room for the clients' families and caregivers together. Families would often times tell us information that we would need to relay it back to the caregiver. Allowing them to directly text with one another without having to use their own phone numbers would be extremely valuable
Solving Our Own Needs
We sketched out the first version of the chat app based on the requirements that we would want for ourselves. The app has to be able do a few things for it to be considered useful:
- it is HIPAA compliant
- it can create a group chat with both clients' family members and caregivers
- it can have private chats with a family member and/or a caregiver
- it also has a family and caregiver version of the app
Can We Sell This Software?
As makers of software, we immediately thought to ourselves: are there other home care companies who can also use this chat software? How would they use it? Would they trust using our software with their clients? How much money would they be willing to pay?
We want to figure out a way to test our hypothesis with other home care agencies without costing a lot of money. Since we haven't written a single line of code, we decided that if we can collect 10 LOIs in the next 45 days then we'll invest time and money into writing the app. Because the home care companies are small businesses themselves, the nature of B2B selling requires us to have a demo ready to expedite the process. Without an actual product, we used Invision to stitch together a high fidelity click-through mockup that we will use during conference calls.
From the perspective of a care manager, the chat app allows her to manage all communications in one place, while being HIPAA compliant. Under CLIENTS, each client has their own chat thread which is comprised of multiple conversations that can be a 1-to-1 chat or many-to-many chat. Under the PRIVATE CHAT, a care manager can start a conversation with one or multiple caregivers. This section is designated for conversations with other caregivers on general items such as schedules, work arrangements and concerns. The first order object in PRIVATE CHAT is a caregiver, whereas the first order object in CLIENTS is a client.
After 45 days, we weren't able to get 10 LOIs as we had hoped. We managed to get only 2 LOIs from 20 demos we did in that period. From the feedback that we gathered, a standalone chat app simply isn't mission critical enough for companies to buy. Many companies use an existing CRM solution that they use to manage everything from scheduling, managing caregivers, charging clients and processing payroll. We were told that this CRM solution has a chat capability, although we weren't sure if it worked the same way as we had designed.