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Older Adults Gain Aging-at-Home Independence as DUOS Comes Out of Stealth

Supported by six million dollars in combined seed funding from notable healthcare investor Redesign Health and consumer-focused Forerunner Ventures, DUOS, a digital health company, came out of stealth. DUOS provides a personal assistant for aging — a Duo — to help older adults stay healthy and age independently in their own homes. DUOS works with its members and their loved ones, along with health plans and providers, to provide holistic, personalized support.

DUOS is collaborating with Magellan Health, one of the nation’s leaders in behavioral health and special/complex populations, to connect older adults with social support and resources to manage social isolation, healthcare access and behavioral health needs. DUOS provides a personal assistant for aging to help older adults stay healthy and age independently in their homes.

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“It’s not surprising that the generation that defied the status quo in their youth is choosing to retain their freedom as they age,” said Karl Ulfers, CEO of DUOS. “This ageless generation is the inspiration for DUOS. We recognize that there are millions of older Americans who want to live full lives in their own homes but need assistance with the social determinants of aging (SDoA) that interfere with their independence. At the same time we are tapping into the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. movement to create a workforce of talented and experienced individuals who we are mobilizing as personal assistants for aging. We are confident that this underutilized workforce will be able to overcome the shortage of paid ‘caregivers’ that exists.”

DUOS arrives at a national inflection point. More than 10,000 Americans are turning 65 years old every day, shifting the country’s demographics and, health and social demands. By 2031, one out of every five U.S. citizens will be of retirement age. In addition to their sheer numbers, this generation has different expectations than its predecessors. According to the AARP, 90 percent of Baby Boomers say they want to age at home, which can be challenging for the 12 million people aged 65 and older living alone. 

“When I first learned about DUOS, I immediately thought of my mother who is fiercely independent despite managing two chronic health conditions. She inspired me to bring this collaboration to Magellan Health as we work together to meet members – like my mother – where they are in their healthcare journey and help them live healthy, vibrant lives,” said Alisa Bahl, chief strategy and innovation officer, Magellan Health. “At Magellan we are committed to transforming the healthcare experience through high-tech and high-touch solutions that address the health and wellness needs of the whole person – life, mind and body. This collaboration with DUOS will allow us to augment our behavioral health offerings and expand our multi-disciplinary care teams through a personal assistant solution for older adults that addresses social determinants of aging.”

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DUOS pairs a trained personal assistant for aging — a Duo — with an older adult, to provide companionship and help with needs such as using technology for ordering groceries, arranging for safe transportation and navigating complicated health related matters. These services will all be provided to certain Medicare and Dual Eligible Medicaid members.  

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While health plans and providers have increasingly adapted to address the social determinants of health (SDoH), SDoA is a more recent phenomenon. While SDoA overlaps with SDoH in that they both impact people’s health, well-being and quality of life, SDoA specifically addresses the unique needs of our older population. DUOS solves for SDoA by combining human contact with technology to provide its personalized services, recognizing that establishing trust is imperative and the first step to achieving shared goals.

As part of a growing trend to expand alternative methods of care, Medicare Advantage and Dual Eligible Medicaid programs are increasingly providing supplemental coverage for social needs provider services; they recognize the value of investing in the resources that will promote stable, healthy, independent lives.

“I have been a long-time caregiver to my mother most of my adult life and have often wished I had a Duo to help her with social connection, taking medication and running light errands,” said Missy Krasner, venture chair at Redesign Heath and former Google Health and Amazon executive. “As someone who has worked at the crossroads of technology and healthcare in high-tech, I have spent my entire career working on solutions that promote patient engagement and caregiving. DUOS is a simple but elegant tech-enabled solution that leverages hi-touch social connections to keep older adults engaged and thriving. It’s what every adult child wants to give their aging parents who live far away—a trusted companion and extender of the family caregiving circle.”

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“We start with the consumer at Forerunner,” said Nicole Johnson, partner, Forerunner Ventures. “For years we’ve been looking for a market-maker in the older adult space, for good reason—as the demographics of the country shift, there’s a growing divide between this consumer group’s evolving needs and the legacy products and services that exist to support them. DUOS’ number one priority is member empowerment, and we see DUOS as tackling a massive opportunity to meet the population’s needs in a way that is culturally relevant and makes lives better.”

With a shared dedication to advancing the social needs of older adults and empowering them to live fulfilling lives at home, DUOS is founded and led by industry veterans: Chief Executive Officer Karl Ulfers, previously of Rally Health; Chief of Staff Jacques Anderson, an attorney previously of The Players’ Tribune and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Chief Operating Officer Anne Marie Aponte, previously of Accolade and DispatchHealth; and Chief Product Officer Kristen Lynch, previously of Onduo, a Verily Company and athenahealth.

“DUOS is launching into a market of historic size and growth,” said Bill Sullivan, venture chair, Redesign Health. “The Boomer population has increased by a third in the past decade and is projected to double to 98 million people by 2060. That rising demographic is causing an equivalent cultural change, where more and more people—in the millions—want to maintain their independence and are seeking the support to make it happen.”

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