Why this startup co-founder lived in a nursing home for 3 months

Though he's a doctor, Timothy Peck didn't know anything about nursing homes. So he decided to live in one and learn more as he started Call9, his company that uses technology to bring care to the bedside of nursing home patients.

Call9 is a startup based in New York City. Its co-founder and CEO, Timothy Peck, is an emergency physician by training. While serving as chief resident in the emergency department at Beth Israel Deaconess, he noticed he and his colleagues weren’t able to deliver the best possible care to older patients.

In a phone interview, Peck cited a statistic: 19 percent of ambulances that come to the emergency department originate from nursing homes and rehab centers. After these elderly patients arrive at the hospital, they often become delirious from the change in location and begin to feel sick. They then have to wait while physicians order tests to figure out what’s wrong.

Overall, these avoidable ED trips are harmful to patients and costly to the healthcare system.

Peck wanted to do something about it, but there was one major problem: He didn’t know anything about nursing homes. As a medical student, resident and doctor, Peck had “never once set foot in a nursing home,” he said.

Photo: jacoblund, Getty Images

Photo: jacoblund, Getty Images

Thus, he endeavored to change that. Peck lived at a nursing home on Long Island for three months. During his time at Central Island Healthcare, he slept on a cot in a conference room and experienced the various elements of the facility, from seeing how the food was made to meeting with the CFO.

While there, Peck also set up an experiment to see what the nursing home was like in the middle of the night. He set an alarm for 1 a.m. one night, 2 a.m. the next night and so on. Each time he got up and walked around, but never once did he see a physician.

“You assume as a consumer … that there are physicians there, but there aren’t,” he said. That was the biggest lesson he learned from the experience.

“It changed the trajectory of my life,” Peck added. “You can’t really go back after seeing the problem firsthand.”

The knowledge gained from his time in the nursing home assisted him as he continued to build Call9.

Here’s how the startup’s approach works: It places a first responder in nursing homes 24/7. They attend to the patient whenever there’s a change in his or her condition. The first responder can then use Call9’s technology to bring a remote doctor into the loop. The doctor can see, diagnose and treat patients, thus avoiding unnecessary ED trips.

Peck said about 20 percent of the patients Call9 treats end up going to the ED, but the other 80 percent are able to stay in their own beds in the nursing home.

The company participates in value-based arrangements with payers. It also contracts with nursing homes. “They pay us a platform fee for the utilization of some of our consulting services that are not covered by the payers themselves,” Peck said.