SeniorAdvisor.com aims to revolutionize senior care by providing unbiased reviews of residential communities and smart services designed to improve quality of life for seniors and their families.
Taking advantage of IBM® Cloudant® database-as-a-service, the company gained a robust, highly scalable platform to store unstructured reviews and lay a solid foundation for future service offerings.
Underpinshigh-performance access to services for users on web and mobile devices
Powersgrowth by enabling fast and easy launch of new lines of business
World-classcapabilities without the expense of in-house database technology and expertise
Business challenge story
SeniorAdvisor.com pinpointed an opportunity to revolutionize the senior care market by providing an innovative set of services for families. Justin Saul, Senior Director of Technology at SeniorAdvisor.com, explains: “For years, choosing the best care for aging loved ones was a difficult and stressful ordeal for families. Not only did they have to choose between nursing homes, retirement communities and assistance in their own homes; also, they needed to find reliable, compassionate providers. “We decided to launch a platform that would enable families to exchange unbiased reviews of care providers, including photos and ratings. To support the initiative, we needed a powerful solution that could store large volumes of unstructured review data and seamlessly scale up to support other senior citizen services as our business took off.”
Finding the right fit
The company decided to adopt the IBM Cloudant database-as-a-service to store its reviews, which now number over 100,000. The company’s Cloudant Dedicated Cluster environment is hosted in a SoftLayer® data center that is physically close to the Amazon Web Services data center hosting its web servers. “Cloudant presented an extremely attractive solution,” recalls Saul. “The platform offers excellent performance, seamless scalability, and advanced functionality, such as automatic eventing for data. Eventing is great for us, because it makes it easy to have one event, for example, a care provider arriving at a senior citizen’s house, or a senior citizen arriving at their doctor’s appointment, trigger another event, for example, a text message update to that person’s children.” For SeniorAdvisor.com, selecting a fully managed solution for its data layer provided clear advantages. Saul remarks: “With a managed solution, we can focus on our core business without having to worry about the database. The Cloudant team is extremely helpful and provides great advice—for example, I can bounce ideas off them before pursuing new initiatives. It’s great to have access to database experts without having to employ them in-house. We estimate that we’re making savings of 20 percent by avoiding the headcount increase needed to support an on-premises database. There is also a potentially significant opportunity cost saving that comes from accelerating the development cycle.” The Cloudant solution helps SeniorAdvisor.com unlock insight into some of the most complex parts of its business. “Most Customer Relationship Management systems are tree-based—for example, a company has a relationship with an account that has many contacts,” explains Saul. “That model doesn’t fit the senior care industry, because there is often a mesh of relationships between our care-provider partners, the people using our website and the ones who receive the care. Using JSON documents in Cloudant, we created a lightweight Graph database on top of the document database so that we can represent, record and query those connections. It’s a powerful way to look at everyone we interact with.” SeniorAdvisor.com uses the Cloudant solution’s incremental MapReduce capability to examine the lifetime value of its members. Because the MapReduce calculations are constantly updating in the background, customer service and sales agents can access this information in an instant. To search for specific information in reviews, SeniorAdvisor.com employees can use the integrated Apache Lucene full-text search feature in Cloudant to rapidly pinpoint the information they need.
Driving profitable innovation
As Cloudant features powerful geospatial functionality, it also offers an ideal opportunity for SeniorAdvisor to develop a product to give family members peace of mind regarding the welfare of their aging loved ones. Saul adds: “When a care provider is on duty and using our app, we can confirm their geographic location at appointment times and report back to their son, daughter, or other relative. This allows families to confirm that their loved one attended a doctor’s appointment accompanied by the care provider or that they left their residence at an unexpected time.” With the Cloudant solution in place, SeniorAdvisor is well-equipped to open additional lines of business to cater to senior citizens’ other needs. The company is now ramping up its plans to leverage the platform to support all of its new revenue-generating services. “One of the main advantages of Cloudant is its immense versatility,” comments Saul. “As pioneers in an emerging market, we can’t be sure what data we should store, or how we should store it. With Cloudant, our data is loosely structured, so we can adapt rapidly as we learn more about what works and what doesn’t.” Justin Saul has designed a flexible application architecture for SeniorAdvisor using micro-services—each with its own supporting Cloudant database—that can be assembled and adapted to create different solutions. He says, “We store everything as JSON documents, which is what the front-end web and mobile apps use, so the interface across entire stack is HTTP. This also means that any layer can use HTTP caching, routing, load balancing and scaling. Developers don’t need to think about multiple different protocols, so they can work faster and more flexibly.” Today, SeniorAdvisor has 12 micro-services running on top of Cloudant, with more to follow. The database’s flexible zero-schema architecture means that SeniorAdvisor can add extra data fields for new use cases without impacting existing services that do not require those fields. This agility, underpinned by IBM Cloudant, helps the company to rapidly and cost-effectively iterate its business model and test new innovative ideas. Says Saul: “When senior managers decide on a new commercial venture, we can repurpose our existing services to fit it. For example, executives recently decided to launch a new line of business at short notice, and we were able to get the required resources up-and-running within a very tight deadline. Although we effectively got started six man-months behind schedule, Cloudant was one of the factors that helped us accelerate the deployment and finish on time. With Cloudant in place, there were no worries about the data storage side of the solution, and having a flexible data structure enabled us to quickly make changes without impacting our existing work. Equally, with JSON being used throughout the solution stack, it was easy to identify and debug problems.” He concludes: “For years, the senior care industry failed to reap the efficiencies offered by cutting-edge technology. With Cloudant, we are launching a wealth of services to bring the industry up to speed.”
Within just three years of its creation, SeniorAdvisor.com has grown to become the largest senior care review website in the United States and Canada. The platform is fast becoming families’ one-stop-shop for planning their loved ones’ care in their golden years.
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Take the next step
Learn more about assisted living, Alzheimer’s care, and home care options and read online reviews at senioradvisor.com IBM Cloud Data Services offers a complete portfolio of data and analytics services providing unique and seamless product integrations to build apps faster and gain new insights easier with flexible deployment and pricing options. For more information about how IBM Cloud Data Services can help businesses solve tough big data problems rapidly and cost-effectively, please visit ibm.biz/clouddataservices. To learn more about IBM Cloudant, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/software/data/cloudant