Tembo Health: Bringing the Power of the Emergency Room to Patients at Home

By Mark Ogilbee posted 09-07-2023 08:37 AM


A founding member of the AgeTech Collaborative™, Tembo Health is a telemedicine company that drives technological innovation and leverages operational excellence to improve health outcomes for seniors. Partnering with senior communities, Tembo Health is on a mission to provide patients with medical services to manage chronic conditions, extend life expectancy and even avoid the emergency room. 

We sat down with co-founder and CEO Anurag Gupta to learn more about the company and the comprehensive care it provides.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


Can you tell us about Tembo Health?

Our mission is to make complex care for seniors more effortless through our virtual disease management platform, where we engage with senior patients through a variety of modalities, including chronic care management and passive remote patient monitoring. We also have our own 24/7 virtual emergency medicine platform. We’ve been able to demonstrate consistent healthcare outcome improvements, including a 75% reduction in emergency room visits for our senior population.

In Swahili, “tembo” means elephant, and elephants are one of the few species on the planet that care for their elders in nature. We’re all about senior care, and that’s why we call ourselves Tembo Health.


How does your program work?

Let’s say we’re working with a health plan, and they identify a thousand dementia patients they want us to work with to reduce unnecessary costs, enhance care coordination, and decrease caregiver burden and stress. The health plan would help connect us with those patients, either directly or through their primary care physicians. Then, as we start to connect with those patients and their caregivers, we inform them more about what Tembo Health does.

If a patient signs up, we assign a care team from Tembo Health that will become part of the extended care team for that patient and their caregivers. Our team checks in with them on a regular cadence, which gives them an ongoing, proactive engagement to better understand how that patient is doing. Our team also provides them with various resources, assessments and clinical tools to improve their quality of life.

You mentioned passive remote patient monitoring. What is that?

Once we get to know a patient, if it’s appropriate, we offer them a sensor to provide us with more objective data about how they’re doing. Our sensors are passive and are usually installed above the patient’s bed, where it gives us biometric data such as the patient’s heart rate and respiratory rate. 

Once we start receiving that data, which we get every single day, we can understand what the baseline levels are for that patient. When those numbers go outside the normal range, that lets us know there might be a problem. Algorithms are constantly reviewing that data, and then our staff can look at it and call the patient to see what’s going on. Being able to review a patient’s medical history is also valuable because it allows our staff to triage the kinds of questions they need to ask, then call with specific, targeted inquiries. That’s much more engaging and proactive than just asking, “Are you feeling OK?”

Not only are we able to use this information to guide our pre-scheduled check-ins, but also to proactively identify care needs. Just recently, our monitoring detected an anomaly in a patient’s respiratory rate. We engaged the patient, scheduled an emergency care visit, and confirmed through tests that we ordered that they had pneumonia.  We ordered antibiotics, and were able to monitor the patient’s vitals to ensure they returned to normal.

What happens if Tembo Health staff determines some kind of intervention is needed?

We do a lot of shared decision-making with the patient and family regarding what the next steps might be. Is it going to be the emergency room? Can we manage this situation at home? We have built a network of mobile diagnostic partners, so if the decision is to keep the patient at home, with a click of a button our team can order blood tests, urine tests, COVID-19 tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and more. Then, a third-party certified technician will go to the patient’s home to perform the tests. We’re basically bringing much of the power of the emergency room to the patient’s home.


What inspired you to found Tembo Health?

When my grandfather was aging, he developed chronic comorbid conditions and began having falls and other complications. My family struggled to manage those, and it became a safety issue for him to continue staying with my parents. Eventually, he went into an assisted living-type community, which was wonderful in terms of the daily support and the social scene. 

However, any time my grandfather had even a minor change in condition, the care team — which was very responsive — were obligated to call 911. That resulted in my grandfather ending up in the emergency room and then being admitted to the hospital almost every single month. 

I was frustrated that there wasn’t a better solution, better access to health care and better technology in place. So that was my motivation for starting Tembo Health and building the type of platform and empathetic, evidence-based care that I wish my grandfather had access to.


What are some of the challenges you’ve had to navigate while building the company?

There have been a lot of challenges in terms of technology, engagement, activation, communication and collaboration. For example, we’ve had to figure out how to keep caregivers — whether those are bedside staff in assisted living facilities, a family member or paid employee at home, or a primary care physician — in the loop of managing patients’ care. We’ve always been very thoughtful both about how we communicate and about clinical outcomes. That’s something that has helped us have such great results, even as an early-stage company.


What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced being part of the AgeTech Collaborative™?

We’ve done product design workshops with experts from the Collaborative, which have been both insightful and practical in terms of how we think about working with seniors as we build technology to serve them. The Collaborative hosts a variety of conferences, which are always engaging and give us the opportunity to meet other stakeholders in the AgeTech ecosystem. The Collaborative has really created an amazing community of entrepreneurs, investors and even corporate entities to lean on, learn from and exchange ideas with. 


What’s in store for Tembo?

We’re at this really wonderful phase of scaling, and we’re super excited to start partnering with payers, health systems, and other risk-bearing entities to bring Tembo Health’s platform and services to more and more patients, because ultimately that’s what we care about: helping as many people as possible.


Learn more about Tembo Health at their website and follow on LinkedIn.