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Just over a year ago, Advocate Aurora Enterprises – the investment arm of the Wisconsin- and Illinois-based health system – announced its first acquisition: Maryland-based in-home senior care provider Senior Helpers.
After accounting for acquired cash, AAE paid $183.7 million for Senior Helpers, according to company filings. The deal marked the then-newly launched Advocate Aurora Health subsidiary’s entry into the corner of the consumer wellness market focused on helping people age independently.
Last month, AAE added to its portfolio when it closed on the acquisition of a second senior-wellness-oriented company, MobileHelp. The addition of the Florida-based provider of personal emergency response systems and remote patient monitoring builds out AAE’s suite of services that help people age safely in their homes.
Advocate Aurora Enterprises went live in the spring of 2021 with the stated goal of backing – and in some cases buying – consumer health and wellness companies that expand the health system’s capabilities outside of the traditional clinical care model. Its focus areas include services related to aging, parenthood and personal performance.
“The consumer health ecosystem is massive,” said Scott Powder, president of AAE. “It’s on its own a trillion-dollar economy, so we wanted to narrow in on areas that we thought, one, (where) there is significant growth, because … obviously part of what we’re trying to do is grow and scale the number of people we serve; and two, areas where there is a lot of unmet need, fragmentation, or maybe where there are lots of solutions, but people have a tough time finding them. … And third is where do we have capabilities in our core clinical delivery that could be brought to bear and help us be more effective?”
AAE has focused much of its early investment on services for older adult patients – a rapidly growing market, with one in five U.S. citizens being of retirement age by 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Senior Helpers — a 20-year-old company with more than 320 franchised and corporate-owned locations in 44 states, Canada and Australia — offers in-home senior services such as meal planning, grocery shopping, medication reminders, transportation and assistance with personal hygiene. AAE closed on its acquisition of the company on April 1, 2021.
In conjunction with that deal, AAE began seeking in-home technology solutions to complement those services.
“The cost of having a labor-based workforce in the home is expensive, and not everyone can afford it,” Powder said. “Augmenting that with technology is helpful. … Technology can be this additional layer of safety and security and provide access to the clinical system as needed.”
Founded in 2009, MobileHelp developed mobile-personal emergency response systems that use GPS tracking to provide assistance to older adults who have fallen or are experiencing an emergency in their home. Roughly six years ago, the company began building out its remote patient monitoring division, which later spun out into sister company Clear Arch Health. That technology enables the transmission of medical data to clinicians, allowing health care professionals to keep tabs on patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels, from their homes.
“Remote patient monitoring lets us continuously monitor people’s health, and we can take action when things are trending in the wrong direction, but if there’s a need for an immediate emergency response, that combination is powerful,” said Rob Flippo, chief executive officer of MobileHelp. “Having it all in one solution is really helpful for the end user.”
That combination was also attractive to AAE, Powder said.
“By acquiring them we get not only that personal emergency response capability, but we get a remote patient monitoring division inside of there, and they can integrate the technology and bring it all together,” he said. “That was unique and different. We hadn’t seen that in other companies.”
Powder and Flippo, who post-deal remains in his CEO role, noted the rapid adoption of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed the mainstreaming of remote patient monitoring, with many patients and clinicians seeking options for care at home. That trend is only expected to continue, they said.
Acquiring both Senior Helpers and MobileHelp also provides Advocate Aurora with more touchpoints with consumers outside the system’s traditional health care settings. MobileHelp equipment, alone, is used by 300,000 households.
AAE’s focus over the next few months is to bundle services together and integrate them with the health system’s existing home health and hospice care services.
“It’s a connection with 300,000 more households where now we can start offering those people perhaps the ability to use Senior Helpers, if they need it,” Powder said. “Or, (we can) offer our Senior Helpers clients this additional layer of technology for peace of mind. … MobileHelp is really unique in terms of its technology and capabilities, but the synergy between Senior Helpers and MobileHelp gets really interesting.”
In addition to its two acquisitions, AAE’s other deals so far have included undisclosed lead investments in San Francisco-based telenutrition company Foodsmart’s $25 million series C funding round and in Seattle-based digital health company Xealth’s $24 million series B funding round.
After a quick succession of deals in its first year, Powder said that pace will slow in the coming months as AAE takes stock of its assets.
“We are going to be spending the next three to six months digesting this very significant, for us, largest acquisition we’ve done to date, of MobileHelp, and making sure they’re hitting the ground running,” Powder said. “… It’s a little bit like being a kid in a candy store. We now have, between Senior Helpers and MobileHelp, the ability to find all kinds of interesting possibilities.”