Airbnb Offers Free Housing During Cancer Treatment

As we all know, more than a few big technology companies are targeting healthcare, ranging from Apple to Google, Lyft to Amazon.

Amazon has almost certainly made the biggest investment in healthcare, sinking almost $1 billion to acquire online pharmacy PillPack, rolling out its Comprehend Medical data analytics program and investing $2 million in AI research. I don’t know about you, but a few years ago I might have voted on technology-first traditional Silicon Valley players, but Amazon is clearly fighting to top of the list of digital companies edging into healthcare successfully.

Given Amazon’s aggressive plays in healthcare, it’s less than surprising to read that yet another consumer services company is staking out some ground in the business too. This time, we’re talking about Airbnb, a development which makes sense in retrospect.

Specifically, last week the home-sharing company announced that it had struck a partnership with the Cancer Support Community to help house those impacted by cancer. Airbnb is providing a grant which will help fund the program, along with supporters such as Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, Janssen, Lilly, Merck, Gilead and Novartis.

Under the terms of the agreement, Airbnb community members will provide free housing for cancer patients and caregivers that are traveling at least 100 miles or more for treatments, scans, clinical trials or other medically necessary care. They must also meet income criteria.

At this point, it looks like this is a relatively small-scale effort. Despite the presence of pharmaceutical company giants on the sponsorship roster, we aren’t seeing a big marketing push or terribly elaborate plans in place. In fact, for Airbnb, a company valued at $31 billion as of its last round of funding in March 2017, this program is trifling at best.

On the other hand, I’d be surprised if the higher-ups in both Airbnb and the pharmas aren’t capturing some very valuable data while doing some good for a population with a wide range of unmet needs.

It’s worth noting, meanwhile, that Airbnb already has a program called “OpenHomes” in place offering free temporary housing to a broad range of patients and families, as well as partnering with the Make-A-Wish foundation to help families granted a respite vacation. That program includes a dedicated non-profit coordinator who supports families and caregivers, who typically stay for 1 to 2 weeks.

Obviously, focusing too much on the R&D potential for these programs would be crass, but the reality is that there’s probably a for-profit angle (and a whopping one at that) to providing flexible medical housing. It’ll be very interesting to see how far Airbnb and its partners take this.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.