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Healthcare tech CEO sees advantages to pay TV partnerships

? The number of Americans over 80 is set to double from 6 million to 12 million in the next two decades, raising questions about long-term healthcare options for people who prefer to live independently in their homes.

? The television, a familiar device already in most U.S. homes, is an ideal option for providing in-home interactive healthcare experiences.

? After announcing a partnership with DISH Network Corp., the technology company Independa Inc. is in talks with other operators about integrating its set-top box with their systems.

With the American population getting older, companies across industries are looking for ways to better serve aging consumers who want to keep as much independence as possible.

Building on this trend, DISH has partnered with Independa to make DISH's voice remote compatible with Independa's AnyTV Companion, a small set-top box that enables two-way interaction through the television. Independa targets its set-top box toward residential homes and organizations focused on senior living, home care, behavioral health and addiction recovery. The box, among other functions, allows users to schedule doctor appointments, receive medication reminders and engage with others via video chat and messaging. It is also compatible with health sensors like blood pressure monitors and scales.

Following the announcement from DISH and Independa, S&P Global Market Intelligence spoke to Independa founder and CEO Kian Saneii about the company's strategy to reach seniors where they are through devices they already own. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

S&P Global Market Intelligence: Can you tell me a bit about Independa and how the partnership with DISH came about?

SNL Image
Independa CEO and founder Kian Saneii
Source: Independa Inc.

Kian Saneii: All of the folks in the pay TV market have a challenge with cord cutting, especially with younger viewers. But what's happening in the elder part of the demographic is people use their TVs very prevalently still, so those guys are not cutting the cord. They are depending on the TV for entertainment and also for social connectivity to the world. But there is so much more that we can do for those folks.

We take the TV and turn it into a bi-directional platform, and what that means is you can offer photo sharing, message sharing, simple video chat where you don't have to go to some other network and sign in with a password — and then also organizational engagement, such as in senior living and home care. It's about using the tool in the home that everyone knows how to use and the existing relationship between these companies and that person. Whatever you are watching, whatever you are doing, you don't have to learn anything new. For DISH, we sit between the DISH box and the TV, which is the way we and DISH wanted it. We're also talking with others in the industry, though I can't share the names. But we're very well along in a couple other cases, as well.

I noticed on your website you had a "go-to-market partnership" with DISH. Does that imply an exclusive relationship? How long has that partnership been in place?

We've been working with DISH for quite some time, over two years. So this announcement is a long time coming, but it's not something new to us. And it's not exclusive. We can change that language to add new parties as we make further announcements.

I remember when Comcast Corp. first introduced its Xfinity Voice Remote back in 2015. Do you see the proliferation of voice remotes in the pay TV industry as an opportunity for greater collaboration?

We do, but we also do so much more than the voice remote because we can also integrate with Inc.'s Echo and Apple Inc. So we're agnostic on that technology, though we love the fact that it can be inside the remote and the remote is something our demographic is very comfortable with. That means they don't need to get an Amazon smart speaker or something. And the services that we offer are very important — things like social engagement and organizational engagement, whether it's video messaging or calendars. These are all services that the cable operators don't have, but they have the marketing, the sales and the distribution. So we have the services, and they have the customer. When we partner, we have a joint customer that is never going to cut the cord.

SNL ImageIndependa AnyTV Companion
Source: BusinessWire

You founded Independa in 2009. What made you decide to get into this field?

We saw a huge market opportunity because we just don't have enough doctors, we don't have enough gerontologists and we don't have enough home care helpers to take care of what people have called the silver tsunami. So we felt very strongly that technology — the right technology that integrates all the services people need for care into one platform — is really going to be essential. We use the TV because that's the device everyone knows how to use. You can't say everyone has a smartphone or that everyone knows how to use it. But everyone knows how to use their television.