Family care with less organizational stress, thanks to family app Fello

July 11, 2017 Nikki Mennen

What is the best nursing home for grandma? Who can make it to the dermatologist appointment of our aunt? Grandpa’s garden has to get a trim… “In today’s changing care system, family caregivers get more and more tasks and jobs. This leads to a lot of organizing, which is at the expense of the actual care and attention”, says Fello co-founder Elien Phernambucq.

Elien, how would you describe Fello in one tweet?
“Say hello to Fello: a shared calendar-app, with which you take care of a family member together. Easy and free!”


What is happening in family care?
“There is a shift in the health industry right now, which puts more responsibilities in the hands of the family. Family caregivers must be more self-sufficient, take care of and plan things themselves. During such a treatment period, a lot of decisions have to be made, from ‘are we getting a stair lift for my long-term ill sister?’ to ‘to which nursery home are we sending grandma?’. This causes a lot of stress sometimes for family caregivers.”


Which problem does Fello solve?
“Family caregivers are doing a noble job, but experience a lot of problems during the daily arrangements of who does what and when. Also, deciding about the care of their family member can take up to many hours. If the organizational stress disappears out of family care, there is more time left for the actual care and attention. That is where Fello comes in.”


How does Fello tackle this problem?
“We made a shared calendar for families who take care of someone, within a free app. The app makes the daily arrangements clear and easy. Therefore, family caregivers can easily ask for help, communicate well about decision-making, save time in the arrangements and thereby focus more on the actual care.”


What can caregivers do with the app?
“The weekly planner is the most used function. It is a visual weekly calendar, where family members can easily plan and look at meetings. Don’t you know yet who can make it to the doctor’s appointment of your mother, then all the group members get a notification in which they can let you know if they can be there or not. Also, users can chat with each other per subject – from ‘grandma’s home needs to be cleaned’ to ‘this are the results from the cardiologist’. Third, we offer several partner services through the app.”


Partner services?
“With the app we link the family to relevant information and services. An example is Senior Service: a company that helps family caregivers with the care, if the pressure gets too high for them. Getting help in time helps them to be more self-sufficient. Senior Service is the first partner service we offer in the Fello app, but we want to add more services in the future.”


Who are other partners of Fello?
“The Achmea Foundation supports us in the shape of knowledge and finances. Besides that, the Zilveren Kruis is a good partner for us, who also gives us – besides help with the application – some credibility. Fello came in second in their test, which made insured caregivers rate several applications.”


What is the strength of the Fello app?
“We consciously kept the app very simple. It is as simple as WhatsApp, but then focused on care. It also offers, besides chatting, a calendar and services, but at the same time gives not-too-technical people the chance to participate. The other day, I spoke to a user of far in his eighties, isn’t that amazing? But at the same time, it is trendy enough for the thirteen-year old niece. That simplicity is the success of Fello.”


Is the app also internationally active?
“Right now, we only offer Fello in Dutch. Technically, we can expand multi-lingual easily. The problem is, that the health sector is very country-specific. We would first need strategic partners abroad to give the app some support.”


How is the Dutch health sector, compared to abroad?
“Where it is very normal in the South of Europe to take grandma into your home, it is not that common in the Netherlands. Our society knows gender equality, fulltime workweeks and social pressure. That demands organization and causes many arrangements. In the Netherlands, there are currently four million active family caregivers.”


Does Fello develop the software itself?
“Yes, we have in-house developers. Besides, we work with editors, marketeers and research agencies. The core tasks, from development to customer service and design, we do ourselves.”


What does the revenue model look like?
“We started thanks to investments from, among others, Vodafone and the Achmea Foundation. To keep making impact, we are now building our own revenue model. In the future, we want to do this through the co-operation with partner services. If our users use their service, we charge a certain margin. For family caregivers, the app will remain free.”

Can all family caregivers use the app?
“Yes. We do notice that every situation demands different information and help. That’s why we want to specify the app in the future to certain illnesses. Together with healthcare institutions, we can offer specific information and services that are relevant for a certain type of caregiver.”


Does Fello have competition?
“There are several client portals from healthcare institutions – Alzheimer Nederland for example has an app to support people who take care of dementia patients. Also Caren Zorgt is an example of a big party that is working in this sector. We see them more as a co-operating application, instead of competition. We complement each other.”


How did Fello start?
“The four co-founders – Niels Meijssen, Johan Langendoen, Michael Noom and I – know each other from our webcompany De Wortel van Drie. The mother of Niels is a nurse at Buurtzorg and she noticed that people have more and more problems within the organization of family care. She came to us looking for a solution. In January 2015 we officially went live with Fello in the AppStore and PlayStore.”


How big is Fello now?
“Fello has over six thousand users right now and is still growing fast. In 2015, we won the program of Vodafone – Mobiles For Good – and last year we won the HeldCare award from the Achmea Foundation. This are two big awards which have accelerated our growth.”


How do you address your marketing?
“The marketing of Fello is a big challenge, as we want to reach a very scattered crowd. Everyone could be a family caregiver. We regularly publish articles about specific problems, tips or experiences of caregivers. Besides, mouth-to-mouth advertising brings us many users. Only one person has to hear about our app, which ends up with the entire family using it. With this strategy, we want to have twenty thousand users before the end of this year.”

Check out the original article in Dutch on EMERCE.

AuthorNikki Mennen

N Mennen
Accenture Innovation Awards