Photo of Seth Sternberg
by Hannah Wolfson

Expanding the World’s Capacity for Care

Seth Sternberg didn’t expect to go into the care business. He started out at IBM, then co-founded an instant messaging and social network service provider that he and his partners sold to Google—where he then started working.

But when his mother started to slow down, he decided to focus on caring for aging adults. In 2014, he and his partners founded Honor, scaled a homecare agency, built a national network of agencies and developed a technology platform to run them.

In 2021, Honor bought Home Instead—which called itself the world’s largest homecare franchise company— expanding its reach in terms of care. It also launched Honor Expert, a care planning service for seniors, and raised $70 million Series E funding, bringing the company’s valuation over $1.25 billion.

All of that leaves Sternberg—who as CEO has set a goal of expanding the world’s capacity to care for seniors—excited for what’s to come. HomeCare talked with him about the latest trends and his predictions for blending technology and hands-on care.

HOMECARE: Look ahead to about five years from now: What will the homecare sector look like and what role will technology play? How will artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning fit in?

STERNBERG: Within the next five years, the home care industry will see substantial consolidation, requiring homecare providers to scale to remain competitive and provide the best care for clients and job experience for care professionals. Technology, such as AI and machine learning, will play a major role in supporting this local scale and shaping the future of homecare as seniors overwhelmingly prefer to age in place.

Technology such as smart-home devices, phones and tablets, and wearable devices that assist with daily tasks will empower aging adults to take better care of themselves while AI and machine learning will help businesses provide better, more personalized experiences for clients and care professionals. At Honor, we are at the forefront of high-tech meeting high-touch.

HOMECARE: What technological opportunities are not being tapped in the senior market?

STERNBERG: Personalization within technology needs to be utilized more in the senior care market. There are brands who are trying to do this but are getting it wrong since they tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach to engaging the senior market.

Because older adults are complex to target, companies can use this opportunity to leverage technology like AI and machine learning to account for each senior’s individual preferences rather than a one-size-fits-all approach so they’re meeting a wide range of preferences and expectations.

HOMECARE: It’s now been more than a year since Honor acquired Home Instead. What are some of the key lessons you have learned from the integration process?

STERNBERG: One of the key lessons we learned since acquiring Home Instead is that we couldn’t keep the two businesses separate. We realized we had to find a way to integrate both to ensure we were staying aligned with our strategy to provide the best homecare experience for our clients and provide a positive company culture for our employees and care professionals. When we weren’t fully integrated, we realized that we were missing opportunities when it came to knowledge transfer between Honor and Home Instead, system-wide transformation on the back end of how homecare is delivered and reduction of complexity around the number of teams we worked with. Once we fully integrated, we were able to reorganize our leadership into four divisions all focused on building the brand, driving growth, building technology and delivering care.

HOMECARE: Did you come away with any new thoughts about employee engagement and retention or how technology can help handle the staffing crisis?

STERNBERG: On the care professional side, we’ve equipped our care professionals with technology, information and tools they need to properly care for clients while giving more transparency and choice to them to have visibility and control of their schedules, which has aided in employee retention. This has helped our care professionals find work that better matches their preferences by giving them opportunities that are more suitable to their skill set, such as matching care professionals who have experience working with dementia patients with
said patients.

This approach to technology keeps our care professionals engaged as it provides them with the information and tools they need to properly care for clients through best-in-class homecare training and how to spot what actions are good and how to improve. We also realized that to create better and more engaged care professionals, we had to find fair and equitable ways to incentivize them to grow and learn. Our technology sets goals for care professionals through performance management and provides them with a user-friendly interface where they can see how they’re tracking towards goals such as timeliness, client consistency and call-offs.

HOMECARE: Has there been friction—either in the Home Instead integration or more broadly in the industry—in the transition from traditional to digital approaches to care? What do homecare operators need to do to maintain their human touch?

STERNBERG: We’ve noticed that homecare and the senior care market are typically slower to digitize their processes compared to most industries. Historically, the homecare industry, and the health care industry in general, has been slower to invest in and adopt technology, especially if they’re unsure if the technology will work.

The pandemic forced all industries to adapt to an even faster-changing market, but there still needs to be a human element to the technology we use. Homecare operators must be strategic about the technology they’re utilizing and building, and the experiences they’re creating with this technology if they want to enter and innovate in this field. For instance, before using any kind of technology, homecare operators need to ask themselves if the tech they want to integrate is actually solving their problems and if the tech focuses on the end user experience.


Hannah Wolfson is editor of HomeCare media.