Among senior care innovations spotlighted this year, one to receive big attention among long term care providers and stakeholders: fall prevention technology.
Across dozens of technologies and six finalists represented at the annual 2013 LINK & LTC Senior Living Conference in Chicago on Monday, one focused on its proven reduction in fall prevention is receiving accolades for its already marked progress.
One of the six finalists chosen to present their technology to an audience of more than 100 senior living and long-term care organizations, the California-based WalkJoy Corp. walked away with the $10,000 grand prize for their remote-monitoring device that prevents falls for older adults.
The rectangular device, attached to a black band, fits around an individual’s leg just below the knee. The significance of the device’s location is that it touches the tibial tubercle—also known as the tibial tuberosity—which serves as an end point for a chain of muscles, tendons and bones involved in a variety of movements.
WalkJoy measures swing and acceleration signals generated by an device-wearer’s gait each time an individual’s foot strikes the ground.
Since patients with peripheral neuropathy may not have feeling in their feet due to damaged nerve receptors, WalkJoy sends a stimulus signal to the brain for foot placement and motion.
People using the device have increased gait and stability in about 20-30 steps, according to Blain Tomlinson, CEO or WalkJoy.
“As residents age, they want to continue to be active,” said Tomlinson. “Not only did WalkJoy increase activity and reduce falls, it also took away the fear of falling.”
Falls continue to be a clear and present danger for senior living providers and their residents.
From 2001 to 2010, the number of deadly falls among seniors more than doubled from 5,350 to 11,412, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As hip fractures are one of the most common injuries sustained after a fall, costing providers anywhere between $20,000-$40,000, providers have implemented wellness programs into their communities that teach and empower residents on ways to prevent falls.
Currently testing the device in 11 beta sites, WalkJoy hopes to increase its scope with 12 additional testing sites pending, which Tomlinson suggests can be used in assisted living, occupational and physical therapy settings.
Also one of the 13 businesses chosen to participate in GE and Startup Health’s Growth Acceleration Program, WalkJoy is working on a collaboration with other GE-Startup Health business and last year’s LINK winner, Caremerge, a Chicago-based company specializing in senior care coordination.
Other finalists included tech that transforms an individual’s smartphone into a medication dispenser from ReMinD Technologies LLC, health care billing advisory services from CoPatient Inc., and smart-beds that record patient data related to pressure ulcers from BAM Labs, to name a few.
While there was only one winner granted in the LINK contest, Louis Burns, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations and lead judge for the contest, enlightened participants on the concept cooperation and competition, which he aptly named “cooper-tition.”
“It’s important to sit down with other competitors to develop standards on how innovations can interoperate and interact with other innovations competing in the marketplace,” said Burns. “This is something healthcare has to do a better job with.”
Written by Jason Oliva
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