Wednesday 1 December 2021

CircleOf - The Newest Online Caregiver's Best Friend

If you are a regular reader here in the Caregivers' Living Room, you will know that I love online tools that help family caregivers ease the burden of care by organizing the good will of friends and family members. Even if you have only one friend and one sibling who have offered to help out, an online tool makes it easier for them to follow through and for you to control accessing the help you need when you need it. I first became aware of CircleOf, a new app for caregivers, on Twitter. Then I dug a little deeper and decided it was time to share what I learned - this is a GREAT tool to broadcast your family needs and keep everyone in the loop easily and efficiently. I'm a fan! - Donna

1) What is the origin story of CircleOf? Did the idea come from your own caregiving experience? 


CircleOf’s CEO, Michael Jordan, was invited by a friend, Kate O’Keeffe, head of Cisco’s HyperInnovation Living Labs, to participate in a design thinking event considering the future of healthcare. About 50 to 60 high-level executives from big organizations like Cisco, Walgreens, Community Health Network, and the University of California San Francisco joined together with cancer patients and their care teams for two days to focus on improving outcomes. Mike’s team concentrated on care coordination and informed decision making. CircleOf was born out of a realization that really wasn’t about the patient, but instead more about the primary family caregiver’s need to be able to quickly assemble a support team of family and friends around them. How to figure out a way to make it easy for those caregivers to ask for help, receive help, and best organize the resources of their team.


While CircleOf originated in the Silicon Valley tech space, most of the CircleOf team have had deep, personal experiences with caregiving, illness, and loss. It brings us to this work in an extremely heart-centered way. Following losses of both parents to cancer in a short time, Kerry Lange, CircleOf’s COO and Chief Evangelist, and Alanna McLeod, Director of Engagement, worked together at Reimagine, a non-profit focused on breaking down taboos around death and dying. Karen Purze, Head of Product, cared for both of her parents while working for an Internet of Things company and wrote a book about the topic. When we saw what CircleOf was doing, we all asked, “Where do we sign up? We know how to build this product, we know what the experience should be because we are your customers.”



2) Tell us about the app, its features and how you made design decisions in adding those features.


Oftentimes, people suddenly find themselves as the primary caregiver, and they’re not only struggling to organize their new life as a caregiver, but they don’t know what they need right out of the gate. The CircleOf app helps you build the right team and puts the right resources and recommendations in front of you to get the support you need. You can ask for that help, then individuals can offer assistance, and it schedules everything automatically. It connects to your calendar, sends reminders and notifications, and keeps everyone in the loop in real-time. We know that caregiving can be unpredictable and things can change quickly, so our users really rely on those features.


The app also reduces a lot of the awkwardness of asking for help because you’re being transparent and specific about what you need as you lay out a care plan and a care schedule for a loved one. With CircleOf, you are able to assign appropriate tasks to the appropriate people, instead of everybody baking homemade cookies and no one helping with tasks that are truly meaningful. Then people know what their role is, and take responsibility for those tasks.


Constant communication also can take up a lot of precious time from a caregiver, who might have text threads with different friends and family, a group on social media, etc. With CircleOf, they can communicate in one place, and keep everyone updated. Essentially, caregivers are often relying on a number of different tools to manage all of their tasks and needs, but this app brings it all into one central place.



3) Is there a cost to use the app and if not, what is your business model? 


The app is currently free for anyone to download on the App Store and Google Play! We’ve also worked with large companies to include CircleOf as an employee benefit - as so many caregivers are also workers juggling part- or full-time jobs. And we’ve been piloting the technology with senior living facilities. We see a lot of potential for its use with professional caregivers who have multiple clients. All this being said, we’re constantly evolving and improving the app based on feedback from users, and this will help inform our future business model, such as upgraded paid features, or costs for multiple teams. But for now, it’s FREE!



4) What are the security features in the app? Can medical records be stored in CircleOf? Can health providers participate as part of a network of care in the app?


CircleOf is a secure, private care community, and we don’t share your information with anyone. It’s like having your own private chat and collaboration layers. For example, your team can have an inner circle, with whom you might share more personal information and ask for certain types of more intimate help. And you can have a broader friends and family group that gets other information and tasks. There’s a timeline that’s similar to social media platforms, group and direct messaging like text, and also video chat. So, you have access to your community in the way that people are used to communicating, but with more privacy and a sense of safety, because we know that caregiving and healthcare is sensitive for many people.


We don’t currently have a feature to store medical records; however, it’s something we’re considering, along with medication tracking and note-taking or recording for doctor appointments. We’re always innovating and coming out with new features. And our partners at Community Health Network, which is a large regional healthcare system, has an innovation team that we work with to test and launch advancements to the app technology.



5) What are caregivers saying about how CircleOf changes the caregiving experience? 


We’ve heard some wonderful feedback about how they love having all of their caregiving tools in one place instead of cobbling together scraps of paper and various chat threads to organize and communicate. It saves a lot of time, which is precious to caregivers and the loved one they’re caring for. And on a more emotional level, being able to gather their network and feeling like they’re surrounded with support is invaluable. No one can do it alone, even though we sometimes feel like we can or we have to. Sometimes we don’t even know what kind of help to ask for, even when our friends and family say they’re here for whatever we need. CircleOf helps relieve some of that stress. People genuinely do want to help, and this technology makes the connection actually happen!

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