To help you get a head start in reaping the income from the aging-in-place healthcare business, here is a sampling of companies who are marketing products and systems.
At the beginning of the year, Intel and GE launched a joint venture: Care-Innovations (www.careinnovations.com). The two companies are combining current healthcare products, and they are creating brand-new products designed to consider the home healthcare consumer as a whole person rather than just as a patient.
Intel-GE Connect is the component that most directly addresses the needs of seniors. As people age, they tend to become more isolated. It is that condition for which the service is designed. It includes an easy-to-use touchscreen with multiple functions. It has simple messaging and photo-sharing tools and delivers community news, calendars and challenging games designed to maintain cognitive health. Wellness surveys, medication checks and trending data can help caregivers target the needs of each of their clients.
Intel-GE Guide gathers information, while actively engaging the patient in the process through video conferencing. Data can be obtained from connections to various vital-sign sensors to help medical caregivers remotely follow their patients’ conditions.
The Added Care Services LLC (www.addedcareservices.com) Added Care Assistant also is based on a touchscreen interface, which combines social and medical features. For example, there is a simplified one-touch email system that is configured with an approved contact list. Family photos and videos can be uploaded and news, weather and music can be easily accessed. Cognitive skill and visual acuity games not only provide engaging activities but can be tracked over time to gain insight into the user’s mental agility.
Each system includes a weight scale, pulse oximeter, glucometer and blood pressure cuff, which have wireless connections to the touchscreen where health and wellness statistics can be recorded and monitored. Caregivers can access the data through a secure Internet connection.
WellAWARE Systems (www.wellawaresystems.com) was founded at the Medical Automation Research Center at the University of Virginia with the goal of developing technology in support of high-quality, efficient and less costly healthcare. Research and development studies were conducted from 2004–2008 in senior housing settings, leading to the system launch in 2009.
Key wellness indicators are monitored through an array of wireless sensors, which can track trends in sleep quality, activity level, bathing and bathroom activity. This information is transmitted over a phone line or broadband connection to a data manager site, which uses specialized algorithms to process the aggregated information into wellness and trend reports for comparison to the resident’s typical living patterns.
CloseBy Network (www.closebynetwork.com) uses sensors and software tied to a web application to monitor safety at home. Families choose what to monitor, how to receive the information, and to whom alerts should be sent if behavior patterns change, in case there is no activity within a specified time or if an alarm is sent from a pushbutton.
A network of unobtrusive sensors and contacts can sense whether a patient is up and moving about normally in the morning; if the refrigerator or medicine cabinet is being opened; if front, back or garage doors open up; or if the stove has been left on. Information from the sensors is transmitted wirelessly to a secure web server where analytic software generates reports that show daily activity and sends alerts by email, text message or pager if abnormal events or trends are detected. The Internet can be used for real-time monitoring and viewing of daily reports. All of these sensors and monitors can be integrated with the Control4 home automation system.
Similar systems can be obtained from eNeighbor Vitals (http://healthsense.com/index.php/products/vital-sign-monitoring-community-setting) and HomeFree Technology—a 3M company (www.homefreesys.com/technology.htm).
Philips (www.lifelinesys.com/content/home) has developed an upgrade to the traditional pushbutton alert, which can automatically detect a fall and can even be worn in the shower.
All of these systems, to one extent or another, aggregate vital information and provide communication resources for aging people who want to remain at home as long as possible.
Are these systems too intrusive? In a June 17 Los Angeles Times article, retiree Dorothy Rutherford said, “It really gives you a sense of security. In a way, I know that there is something out there taking care of me.” The 86-year-old is participating in a study conducted by Oregon Health & Science University’s Oregon Center for Aging and Technology.
BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.writingengineer.com, an independent professional writing service.