Japan’s iCARE raises $880,000 to help companies better care for employee health

The Carely platform

See the original story in Japanese.

The awareness of “Health and Productivity Management” in which corporations can expect better results in management upon focusing on employees’ health, has recently been enhanced. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has tied up with Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) and announced “Health and Productivity Stock Selection”: corporations considering employee health in terms of management and strategically work thereupon.

Meanwhile, employee stress check-ups have been mandatory since last December in Japan. Corporations have to deal with various health items but most of them do not have sufficient measures against these due to lack of resources.

Tokyo-based healthcare startup iCARE has released Carely, a newly developed healthcare platform for corporates in resolving this situation. In addition, the company recently announced that it has secured 100 million yen (about $880,000) from Japanese VC firm Incubate Fund.

iCare was founded by three students at the Keio University Graduate School of Business Administration. Launch back in June of 2011, the company had been conducting the activities for the iCARE platform for over the first two years while continuing their previous jobs. They subsequently introduced a medical record management platform called Catchball in 2013.

At that time, people were still less interested in health management and cloud tools.

recalls Yamada Yota, CEO of iCARE. Yamada, an occupational physician, general internist and psychotherapist, asked corporates to adopt the Catchball platform when offering the medical service.

The awareness of health management or cloud tools has changed with the times. At the same time, they have developed the Carely platform. The team’s awareness of the issues has not changed since they launched the Catchball platform. Health information of employees is dispersed and discontinued if the representative changes. They aim to improve this inefficiency which even occupational physicians cannot understand, and to visualize such health information.

Carely dashboard
Carely dashboard

Carely offers centrally integrated management on cloud, visualization and analysis of employees’ health information. Companies can manage personnel / labor information including their attendance, results of medical / stress check-ups and information of occupational physician’s consultation.

By visualizing employees’ personal health information, Carely can specifically respond to users’ needs via chat function based on the health data when a problem occurs or they need to consult a specialist. With this chat function, doctors and public health nurses respond to employees’ health issues based on personal health data. They also provide the content of health-related information such as health guidance after medical checkup or stress check-up via chat.

Carely is, so to speak, an “online infirmary.” Corporates can use the platform for tiresome scheduling of employees’ medical checkup with medical centers or conducting stress check-up and it becomes a medical touchpoint for the employees. In addition to these system uses, iCARE provides Carely PRO which offers health agent service or consulting for health and productivity management. To promote the practical use of Carely they carry out the tasks related to the medical checkup and the stress check-up that are the company’s obligations.

Checkup data is managed on Carely as health information and is utilized for health consulting chats. Moreover, it thoroughly supports the industrial hygienic activities contributing to the health and productivity management such as starting up a system of industrial hygiene or operating daily health committee. Health items are largely divided into the physical and the mental, and each of these are divided into three steps: medical examination task, related task like agent services and consulting task. To date, there is no other platform which covers all of these tasks, told Yamada.

The field of ‘related task’ including agent services is a very difficult part to improve in terms of efficiency and systemization as the task is mostly within the purview of medical centers and thus can be communicated only by fax. Therefore, health platform developers have not worked on this field. We will brush up on our operation in this sector while offering Carely service.

iCARE’s Yamada (left) receives an award at Rising Expo 2014, the annual startup showcase event by CyberAgent Ventures in Tokyo.

The management team at iCARE has experience dealing with business improvement or in enhancing efficiency for the medical sector and leading companies. By optimizing their experience and know-how, they aim to improve their operation of Carely. Their business model has several operational weak points that need to be improved. The related task as mentioned above is one of these, and how the doctors as well as public health nurses respond to chat consulting is also an important point which requires meticulous improvements.

Yamada says,

The time slots employees consult via chat are not during business hours but before/after work or during break time. Therefore, we offer the consulting service for those time periods in addition to holidays upon arranging the work schedule of doctors.

Currently we are repeating the tests to ensure the quality of our service. The advantage of this chat consulting is that we can implement PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Action) by leveraging the history of chat text. It becomes easier to improve the service by visualizing the ‘black boxed’ points of telephone consulting.

Carely has already been introduced into several companies. Rizap, a well-known Japanese chain of weight-loss gyms, is also one of them. According to Rizap, the consultation rate of employees’ medical checkups has been improved from 50% to more than 90%, since they introduced Carely.

iCARE is prioritizing the brush-up of their service for the moment, and will aim to acquire 100 companies. Carrying out a medical act is not part of iCARE’s goal; the fact is under Japanese law they cannot engage in medical practice. The company has a concept of “cloud hospital” which offers programs related to “prevention and improvement” via cloud. They consolidate the health care data held by corporations, and conduct medical consulting via chat based on health data. In the future, they estimate that they will be able to recommend solutions that meet user’s demands.

By brushing up on Carely, this cloud service will enable small and mid-sized companies that cannot afford to invest in employee health issues, to carry out health support activities. With this fundraising, iCARE will enhance their system of management, development and marketing, while improving their service.

Translated by Minako Ambiru via Mother First
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy