As a caregiver for her grandmother, Claudia Polgar ’19 has become well acquainted with what it means to navigate the United States’ healthcare system. “From diagnosis and treatment to follow-up and ongoing care, I witnessed that the process can be a winding road,” said Polgar. “While some healthcare journeys can be straightforward, others can be filled with countless next steps or an unclear path forward.”
Polgar isn’t alone in learning to navigate the healthcare system: More than one in five Americans are family caregivers. That’s why Polgar — who majored in medicine, literature, and society as a student at Barnard — founded CheckPoint Health, a new startup designed to help family caregivers better manage their loved one’s care. “CheckPoint reduces the burden by taking care of the coordination and logistical planning involved with caregiving so that families have more quality time to spend with their loved ones,” Polgar explained.
Polger’s health productivity app helps users organize and simplify their caregiving tasks with customized checklists. It also enables family members to divvy up responsibilities more easily by allowing for easy schedule synching and information sharing.
The data supports the need to streamline the caregiving process. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2034, older adults will outnumber children, increasing the stress on family members caring for both older and younger generations. Additionally, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Yale School of Medicine.
“I believe that family caregivers hold the key to alleviate pressure on an overburdened healthcare system, to improve their effectiveness in managing care tasks, and to promote safe independence of the patient,” said Polgar.
To get the startup off the ground, Polgar joined the Columbia Startup Lab with sponsorship from Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership. The Startup Lab, housed at a WeWork office in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, provides space for 71 Columbia alumni to work on entrepreneurial ventures. Participants also gain access to Entrepreneur-in-Residence hours and exclusive workshops.
“As a member of the Lab, I have access to a wealth of experts across industries, as well as membership in a cohort of founders from across the Columbia alumni community,” said Polgar. “I have received invaluable support, from reframing key challenges to rethinking market strategies.”
Athena’s support was critical to Polgar gaining access to the Startup Lab’s resources and has created a lasting partnership between her and the Athena Center. “It’s been such a pleasure to work with Claudia during her time in the Columbia Startup Lab,” said Umbreen Bhatti ’00, the Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director of the Athena Center. “With this partnership, in just one year, we’ve gotten a front-row seat to the building of a great company, built connections between students and Claudia, and strengthened our relationship to the entire Columbia entrepreneurship community. I am so glad that Athena is a home for Barnard students interested in entrepreneurship, as well as a place of support and connection for Barnard alums launching new ventures.”
Sponsoring Polgar is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Athena Center’s support of entrepreneurial work in the Barnard community. In June, Athena hosted the Barnard Startup Summit for students and alumnae. This three-day virtual boot camp, hosted in partnership with the Barnard Entrepreneurship Network, taught participants the ins and outs of creating a startup, offering workshops on branding, PR, elevator pitches, and more.
Athena also creates space for Polgar to take the advice she’s received from the Startup Lab and give it back to current students — she holds weekly coffee chats and check-ins with undergraduates through the Center. “Connecting with students has been a rewarding way for me to reflect on where I was as a student and where I am envisioning taking CheckPoint in the future,” said Polgar.
In that future, Polgar aims to grow CheckPoint Health into the go-to company for family caregivers looking to simplify and manage their care tasks — a vision that could include partnering with hospitals and healthcare systems. “I hope to empower patients and their families to hold an active role in their own healthcare journeys, avoid preventable errors, and maximize quality of care,” Polgar said.