Spotlight on: Rajiv Mehta and David Bunnell, Unfrazzle
Rajiv and David understand that caregivers need better tools to manage daily tasks — and communicate care needs with other family members. They’ve developed Unfrazzle — an app for iPhone and Android — to help the family care team stay in-sync.
Rajiv showed me a demo at mHealth and I was most impressed by the ability to customize the tracking system, since caregiving needs vary so much in each setting, and for each family. Having tracked all tasks by hand as a caregiver, I can see how useful Unfrazzle would be in monitoring, coordinating, and delegating caregiving responsibilities! Read their story and see the great video from their site, below:
ABOUT RAJIV & DAVID
Rajiv Mehta is the founder and developer of Unfrazzle. He has devoted himself to developing technologies that help people take care of themselves and their families. He is on the board of the Family Caregiver Alliance, is a leader in the Quantified Self movement, and led the development of Zume Life and Tonic, ground-breaking products that led to Unfrazzle.
David Bunnell is Rajiv’s partner at Unfrazzle. Media entrepreneur and founder of PC World, Macworld and ELDR Media, David is an expert social media community organizer and architect. He is the co-author of Count Down Your Age (McGraw-Hill) with renowned anti-aging doctor Frederic Vagnini, MD, and the ghostwriter of The Immortality Edge (Addison-Wesley).
How did you get started?
- Rajiv: In 2004 and 2005 I had been looking into business opportunities in the home health space for the company I worked for at that time. I kept hearing that one of the biggest issues was “non-adherence” — patients not taking their medications as prescribed. I was told that this was primarily due to patient’s lack of knowledge (of the importance of following the prescriptions) or lack of motivation. As I thought about this issue, both through the lens of my own experiences and through the philosophy of W. E. Deming and the quality movement, I came to a different perspective — that adherence was poor because it was hard to do in the context of our busy lives. We could improve adherence by providing people tools to make adherence easier. As Deming might say: don’t blame the worker (patient); instead give him better tools, better processes. I got started because I had an idea about how to make such tools, I felt there was a business opportunity, and the timing was right for me and a couple of friends to try.
- David: After the dotcom crash in 2000, I felt pretty burned out about technology magazines. I was the CEO of Upside Media and before that had a long history in technology publishing as the founder of PC World and Macworld magazines (and many others). On a personal level, I was getting fat and out of shape. My blood pressure was high and I was in danger of developing diabetes. Thanks to my remarkable grandmother, Sadie Taylor, who was a pioneer in fitness and nutrition, I was long aware of the beneficial aspects of healthy living. I need to change my lifestyle and for me, what better way to get motivated than to start a business in the “wellness publishing” space. My first product was “The Longlife Club” aimed at boomers who wanted to extend their years of healthy living by eating right, exercising and knowing as much as possible about health and medicine. One thing has lead to another and here I am.
What experience drove you to CREATE UNFRAZZLE?
- Rajiv: There is no single experience that drives me. When I look around, I see that caregiving is not a rare situation; rather it is part of normal life. There have been and are today many caregiving situations amongst my family and friends that have influenced my efforts, both my passion for making life better and the actual design of the product. Importantly, the family members impacted, both caregivers and care recipients, have ranged in age from children to octogenarians. I always keep in mind that this is a universal issue, not just an aging issue.
- David: The idea for Unfrazzle and the way the product has been developed are totally Rajiv’s vision and I’m just along for the ride. From the very first time Rajiv told me about his concept I was convinced that he is on to something that is immensely important and which has the potential to make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people. A big reason for my insight is the caregivers I know among my family and circle of friends. My wife, for example, is the primary caregiver for our son-in-law who has stage 4 rectal cancer. Her tasks including managing his medications, joining in the conversations with the doctors, going with him to chemo at the hospital, and raising money to help pay his expenses. It’s complicated and it involves our granddaughter, age 15, who lives with him, and a few of his friends and other relatives. To her, the potential of Unfrazzle to make her chores less difficult is a gift from the gods!
How were you introduced to the space?
- Rajiv: The immediate spark was looking into the home health space as a possible opportunity for a novel wireless technology. But, I have numerous health professionals in the family (grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces) and through many years of conversations, I was already sensitive to health and care issues.
- David: From 2006-2009 I was the cofounder and Editor-in-Chief of Eldr Media. We had a magazine and a website targeted at boomers and “enlightened seniors” that was mostly concerned with how people can maintain optimal health and extend their healthy lifespans. This was always the goal but it was clear to me that it isn’t always possible. No matter how well you take care of yourself, you are vulnerable to diseases, accidents and just the vagaries of getting old. If you don’t find yourself in need of care, the odds are very high that you will find yourself helping someone else. And caregiving is a very neglected area. As the population ages, more and more people will need care and more of us will be caregivers.
What has kept you in this space?
- Rajiv: The more I have learned from working with people caring for themselves and their families, and from collaborating with other innovators, the more convinced I have become that improving the situation is very important. It is doable, and will have a huge positive impact on overall wellbeing. Unleashing the power of individuals to manage their health is likely to do as much to advance health, as innovations in public health or healthcare. In addition, from taking advantage of many opportunities for public writing and speaking, I have come to know a great many like-minded people. We support and motivate each other. It’s not a solo effort.
- David: At this time in my career, I really want to do something that has a potential to make a difference for people. During the whole healthcare, “obamacare” debate I found it frustrating that so little attention was paid to prevention and to empowering people to manage their own health and to help others. Not every health issue can be resolved at the hospital or in a clinic. The unsung heroes of our healthcare system are the caregivers. If we can support them we will be doing a great thing.
What were you doing before Unfrazzle?
- Rajiv: My experience is in radical innovation, in creating products and businesses in very new spaces. I have done this inside large institutions (Adobe, Apple, NASA, Symbol) and small, and in many different markets (consumer, business, industrial) and technologies (photography, lasers, wireless, vision, etc.). Immediately prior to getting into the personal health space, I was a Fellow at Symbol Technologies.
- David: Just prior to Unfrazzle, I was developing my skills and knowledge of social media, everything from micro-blogging to Facebook to creating private social networks. For years I’ve found myself on the edge of new media technology and it only gets better and more exciting.
Why are you passionate about what you’re doing?
- Rajiv: We have the potential to make day-to-day life easier for a vast number of people around the world (nearly everyone at some point in their lives). And we also have the potential to contribute to significant advances in the science of health. Hard not to be passionate about that!
- David: I can’t say it any better.