Senior Care Technology Round-Up: Fall Prevention, Digital Postcards & More

From start-ups to larger companies, tech businesses nationwide are seeing opportunity in the senior care space.

In this week’s round-up, one company’s video technology helps older adults and residents of senior living communities stay connected with their families, even if they are hundreds of miles apart. 

Another group’s online exercise program helps seniors maintain their independence through an easy-to-use online fall prevention tutorial, while two other companies have joined forces to create a device that measures vital signs and detects when a fall has occurred. 

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Also, a new data-collecting sensory system has proven successful in reducing falls and lowering hospitalizations for residents in skilled nursing facilities (SNF) in a cooperative effort between a New York nursing home and an Israeli medical center. Read on:

1. Digital Postcards Connect Families to Residents and Community Life 

Postcards, Inc., a Seattle-based tech startup, connects senior living communities to the world with their suite of apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

The company’s Postcards Communities enables residents of senior living communities to stay up to date with their families, regardless of their technology ability. 

Residents receive photos, videos and messages from their family or community staff in an iPad interface that is easy-to-use even for people with memory loss, poor eyesight, hearing and motor skills, according to Danielle Narveson, vice president and co-founder of Postcards, Inc.

“A key relationship we wanted to help companies develop was their relationship with the extended families of their residents,” said Narveson. “Postcards Communities automatically keeps families up to date on what’s going on at the community, without adding to the workload of staff or head office.”

Residents do not need any previous experience with computers at all, and there is nothing to learn or remember. Interaction with the iPad app is optional; it can be used as a digital photo frame that automatically updates as family and staff send content to it.

2. Video Technology Keeps Older Adults Socially Connected

Sage Eldercare Solutions developed their latest technology, VideoCare, in an effort to help older adults to stay connected with their families. 

VideoCare uses a touch-screen system to offer video calls and other options for social stimulation. The touch-screen has no keyboard or mouse and does not require any technical skill on the part of the user. A two-way video connection is made when the user simply touches the picture of the person they want to call. 

The system functions as a cloud-managed service so that all control of the system can be handled remotely by family members and caregivers. In addition to video calls, the VideoCare system allows users to send photos or videos from their computer or smart phone to a VideoCare user.

Video “postcards” or automated reminders can be remotely programmed to keep users on a medication schedule or remind them about scheduled appointments. The device also acts as a digital picture frame and music player.

“It is a priority to maintain or re-initiate connections with their family members and friends to help foster a sense of purpose and meaning,” says Nina Herndon, founder and principal of Sage Eldercare Solutions. “We place a premium on solutions that offer older and dependent adults the opportunity to reap the same benefits of a connected world that many enjoy on a daily basis.”

3. Post-Acute Sensory Tech Leads to Lower Hospitalizations 

EarlySense, a Massachusetts-based company focused on proactive patient care solutions, provides a sensory system that has been shown to reduce falls, in turn lowering hospitalizations for residents in skilled nursing facilities (SNF). 

EarlySense System relies on clinical data collected from The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, NY and Dorot Medical Center in Israel. The care providers announced the technology’s results in at the 2013 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society in early May. 

The poster advertising the EarlySense System at the event was titled “The Effect of a Continuous Patient Monitoring System on Reducing Hospitalization and Falls in Skilled Nursing Facilities.”

Out of a 833 patient records at The Dorot Geriatric Center, a 374-bed facility in Netanya, Isarel and 773 records at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, an 870-bed SNF—the transfer rate to the hospital decreased by 21% at Dorot and the falls rate decreased by 38.5% at the Hebrew Home. 

“The implementation of EarlySense on the post-acute care units has demonstrated a significant decrease in the total number of falls and a trend towards reduction in the readmission rate back to hospitals, thus improving the overall quality of care for the elderly,” said Dr. Zachary J. Palace, Hebrew Home medical director and the study’s principal investigator for the EarlySense System. 

The system also alerted early warning signs of patient deterioration, enabling Hebrew Home’s medical team to proactively respond and save four lives, says Dr. Palace.

“As clinicians we are always on the lookout for better ways to provide safer, more effective care for our patients,” says Palace. “The EarlySense system is the first technology to help us more effectively and proactively respond to early warning signs of deterioration and potential falls to secure better patient outcomes.”

4. Online Program Helps Prevent Falls in Home, at Home

Through an online training program from PrimeWellness, older adults can prevent falls in their home without even opening the front door. All that is needed is a computer and an internet connection. 

By logging onto the PrimeWellness webpage, users can create an exercise program designed to suit their individual needs. A survey asks simple questions related to an individual’s mobility capacity, like if they use a walking device or if they have recently suffered a fall. 

Once the short questionnaire is completed, users can begin their personalized, physical therapist-taught exercise program via a video tutorial. Users receive points based on how they perform and can even adjust the difficulty level if an exercise proves too easy or difficult.

The PrimeWellness program can be used as a stand alone self-management tool, or alongside skilled care as a “bridging tool,” to help get a person back up and on his or her feet.

Co-founded by a physical therapist, PrimeWellness just signed a pilot agreement to implement its program with Rehab Systems in Connecticut.

5. Tech Companies Team Up for Fall Prevention, Wellness Monitoring 

Tel-Tron Technologies Corporation announced it is partnering with AFrame Digital to provide best-in-class fall detection and health monitoring through its CompanionOne® wireless emergency call system.

AFrame’s MobileCare Monitor system includes a wristwatch-based monitor that detects fall-related impacts. The device continuously gathers activity-related data to determine the user’s location, sending a discreet alert if someone is not wearing the technology.

MobileCare Monitor combines this technology with vital sign data obtained from such wireless devices as Bluetooth-enabled glucometers, pulse oximetes, weight scales and blood pressure cuffs. 

If a person suffers a fall, or even has a vital sign reading outside their personal baseline or target range, the Monitor will generate an alert in real-time to caregivers through their mobile communications device of choice.

“We are very pleased to have AFrame Digital as a partner,” says Tel-Tron CEO Brian Dawson. “We have been looking at several products in the fall detection space and AFrame Digital’s product clearly delivers on its promises of accurate and timely fall detection and beyond.”

The two companies have already exhibited their technology together last week at the Assisted Living Federation of America’s (ALFA) annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

6. Status Solutions Expands Alerting Capabilities with Mobile Dashboards

Status Solutions has expanded the alerting capabilities of its Situational Awareness and Response Assistant (SARA) to include mobile dashboards. 

This upgrade enables users to quickly respond to situations as they unfold, allowing for more efficient and effective response planning.

The advanced alerting capability, known as SARA’s eMessenger, is mobile and WiFi-enabled and now features two-way talk, customizable controls, response logging to analyze performance metrics. 

SARA’s eMessenger allows its mobile dashboards to receive color-coded text and information about a triggering event in real time. 

“With SARA’s eMessenger, organizations can expand their use of mobile devices for greater flexibility, mobility and situational awareness in the palms of their hands,” says Jon Traina, solutions manager, Status Solutions.

Wherever they are, Traina adds, users have command of the information they need and can control how they respond to alerts all from one interface.

Written by Jason Oliva

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