In light of some recent studies linking loneliness in seniors to quicker functional decline and even death, the development of senior care technology that can help prevent social isolation while monitoring other conditions is especially relevant.
That’s a goal senior care technology solutions provider Independa is working toward as it seeks to create an integrated cloud-based communications platform that can help healthcare organizations (including senior living communities) and home care professionals, along with family caregivers, better manage the care of older adults no matter where they live.
During a recent interview with Independa’s CEO and founder, Kian Saneii, Senior Housing News got a chance to ask about the tech company’s industry partnerships (including a recent one with QualComm) that further platform integration; the growing presence of, and familiarity with, technology in many seniors’ lives; and the huge, strategic role TV can play in senior living.
Senior Housing News: What are some areas of senior care that are still very undeveloped, and what is Independa doing to fill those needs? What’s your strategy in developing products and platforms?
Kian Saneii: In senior care technology, there are areas that are great point solutions that are necessary, but aren’t sufficient for the whole area of management.
For example, if someone has morbidity with multiple conditions, they’re using a scale, a glucose monitor, a blood pressure cuff, etc., it’s critically important to manage all of that data. But if you have two or three conditions, how do you manage all of that data in one place, if it’s from different companies?
When you add all this together—whether it’s a professional caregiver or senior living—to be able to have a central view, and offer all of those [data management] services is a great opportunity, and that’s where Independa has been focused.
SHN: Talk about some of the challenges gaining acceptance and penetration from senior housing owners and operators to technology deployment? How have you been able to overcome these?
KS: The senior housing market has been waiting for these products: technology that can address a huge amount of issues and opportunities for them. Imagine a senior housing facility, independent living– you go in, and now the TV can show you your medication reminder. Or it can give you a video chat session coming in from your grandson, or tell you that breakfast is being served now.
The trend is where there’s the gap in the market, for someone to say ‘Wow, if I can go to one place and get my EMRS, social engagement, medication reminders, data for health devices, activities, all built into one platform, and also capture someone’s life stories, audio files, all on one platform’ — they say, ‘This is worthwhile, and becomes part of what we do.’
On Independa’s relationship with LG Electronics: It’s big news for senior living, because the TV becomes a strategic platform. It becomes a tool to engage you socially. You can play games on it, check email, etc. At the very least, it’s a service that’s very powerful and differentiates you. It’s also a service you can charge for and make money.
We think we’re gonna be revolutionary in providing services through TVs. Providers can even extend this into the home if they’re interested in homecare. They can charge more for it, keep people longer in each stage, and win competitive situations over others who don’t have it.
Someone might not want to enter a [senior living] facility yet, but you can extend that service into their home. Then when they come into your facility, nothing really changes. It gives you a huge advantage, both in terms of ease of use, and customer acquisition and retention.
SHN: Do you expect to see substantial growth in the home health/home care market?
KS: We differentiate home care from home health care. From our perspective, homecare has no CMS code, is not part of an ACO, it’s private pay, it’s not Medicare-driven. Home health is really the opposite of all those.
Home health, as an industry, is contracting because of Medicare issues, but might very well expand because of hospital discharge issues. Personally, I think it’s going to do a sort of contract and expand.
We’re primarily focused on home care, but there’s huge opportunities in home health as well.
In senior living, you have lots of those companies also getting into home care. If we’re working with a facility that’s either in home care or is about to get into home care, from our perspective it’s irrelevant if they’re in the home or in the community. The lines are not as clearly drawn for us between senior living and home care… there’s the idea of the ‘virtual bed.’
SHN: Talk about your recent partnership with LivHome from March. Are home care agencies the best way to penetrate the aging in place market that’s not part of an independent living community?
KS: In general, we want to partner with the highest points of leverage around who takes care of the elderly person. Livhome has done an outstanding job with that. They’re well known for market leadership: not just a footprint, but also successes.
There are many markets to look at; it could be a senior living facility that offers home care services. It could be software company that has solutions for home care, and might want to offer our solutions.
We’re excited about our flagship partnership, and we’re also excited about the whole market.
On the recent Qualcomm partnership: It’s all about platform integration. It’s an aggregation point for all the different devices that might be in personal residence or a facility. It’s a big deal; we’re all excited about it.
As for what Qualcomm is doing– they’re not the device manager; they’re doing the device information. They can use the Qualcomm hub to send the data ‘to the cloud.’ That becomes very valuable.
If we integrate with Qualcomm, with all of the different integrations we do, our aggregation value only gets bigger. Whatever they have, we have. If we integrate with someone else, we have that, too.
We’re agnostic to the hardware. They’ve built a great platform, it’s helpful to us and to them. It doesn’t care whether [data] came from this manufacturer’s scale or that glucometer. That’s the power of the platform.
It makes it more convenient for the senior by making it more convenient for the people they’re interacting with—the homecare provider, or the senior living community—because they don’t have to worry about where the data is coming from and going.
SHN: Do you feel that state and federal entitlement programs should be re-worked to help pay for technology solutions?
KS: Some states actually pay some amount of money for family caregiving. It’s only a few, but it’s an upward trend. I do believe if we can incentivize, and pay for certain services ahead of other types of more expensive medical treatments, then the data will show we actually save money considerably, over all.
The costs in our health care system will be escalating. These systems solve a big part of our healthcare costs; it makes sense to extend payments.
SHN: How does this save on senior care costs?
KS: There are so many different ways. If you’re with someone and you see things about them that are making them sick or will make them sick, you’ll intervene.
It could be they’re not eating enough, or are lonely and getting depressed. Could be they’re getting up eight times during the night and aren’t getting enough sleep. They could be urinating five times the normal amount. Could be they’re sitting in 90 degree temperatures every day in places that get very hot and humid in the summer, but they don’t register heat on their skin, don’t register thirst as they get dehydrated. [Could be] for congestive heart failure patients that must step on the scale to see if fluid’s building in their lungs. If you catch them during the fluid build up, you can save them from an episode; it could save tens of thousands of dollars to prevent that.
If you have a system that gives you a holistic view based on important thresholds you would act on if you were there yourself, but because you’re not there you can access that remotely—whether it’s a homecare provider, or senior living professional—in a very cost-effective way to see what’s coming, and intervene. That’s where you save huge amounts of money, and that’s right in our health care system.
Even in the home, you can stay there longer and save money. If we delay your move for just one month—the numbers are incredibly favored toward using technology.
SHN: Will there be a switch to these technological innovations becoming expected, rather than novel, in senior care and senior living communities?
I think in 10 years, there will have been an evolution path of technology for the elderly that becomes very common and well accepted. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t even use ‘technology’ and ‘the elderly’ in the same sentence.
This is a progression: We have shown that the elderly can use technology and that when they don’t, it’s the technology’s fault—not theirs.
The iPad has shown that; there’s lots of technology that’s being used by [seniors].
As we all age more, the number of people around for the PC revolution and has consistently used the computer increases. It used to be somebody over 60 knows nothing about computers. Now, it’s either 74 or 75. The year, demographically, that you were exposed [to computer technology]– in another 10 years, that’s gonna be 85.
In 10 years, a lot more people will be constantly using the computer, on a regular basis. Even if they have dementia and forget other things, it’s going to be part of their life. The technology will keep evolving.