Joining the ranks of other multinational consumer electronics providers entering the senior care space, Toshiba is betting big on the sector, which it views as $10 billion opportunity.
The Tokyo-based electronics conglomerate specializes in an array of technologies, from consumer-facing products like laptop computers and TVs to industrial power systems related to nuclear, hydroelectric and wind energies.
Most recently, the company is utilizing its expertise with LED televisions and imaging displays to launch its latest series of mobile tech solutions available for older adults, clinicians and other healthcare providers via its subsidiary, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. (TAIS).
“The healthcare industry is an important transition, becoming increasingly digital and depending on technology more than ever,” says Wesley Smith, director of Healthcare Information Systems at TAIS, Digital Products Division.
Headquartered in Irvine, California, TAIS comprises three units known as the Digital Products Division, Imaging Systems Division and Telecommunication Systems Division.
Together, these divisions leverage technologies like digital medical imaging, IP telephone communication systems and portable computer devices for application in the senior care market—all with the intent of helping older adults age independently at home and assisting healthcare organizations better provide quality care.
America’s evolving healthcare system and changes in personal preferences on where to receive medical care spurred Toshiba to develop new, tailored tech solutions that help healthcare organizations meet the growing demands of consumers.
“We see a big push of more and more people that don’t want to go to the hospital when they get sick, so we asked ourselves ‘what are ways to move healthcare to them?’” Smith says.
One way TAIS is delivering healthcare to older adults is through Android- and Windows-enabled tablet devices, where a person can initiate functions like video chat with family or doctor if they’re living at home, or nurse-call features for those living in community settings.
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Toshiba also plans to employ a virtual caregiving program through a strategic partnership with Next IT, a company specializing in virtual intelligence assistance.
Through this partnership, Next IT will launch its language platform, Alme for Healthcare, on Toshiba tablets and laptops to show how the technology can enable healthcare professionals to interact with their patients and deliver personalized care interventions
The software combines a natural language model with a visually friendly avatar to drive interactive conversations with users on their channel of choice.
Unlike a voice automated program—like “Siri” on Apple operating systems—the Alme software connects with users in a more human-like way to establish a relationship and empower individuals to manage their own health, says Smith.
Though it won’t replace physician-based diagnoses, Smith says TAIS is currently working to progress Alme so the software can virtualize any family member or caregiver, like a son or daughter, by using real voice over.
“Alme is not like Siri, where it answers one particular question,” he says. “Instead, it’s virtual intelligence that can process and understand the context of what you’re talking about.”
Toshiba joins the likes of other consumer electronics giants like LG and Phillips, which have also crossed into the healthcare tech market with products like electronic medical record platforms and clinical workflow devices.
But where the company stands apart from the competition lies in its tailor-made, customizable approach to healthcare technology.
The company is currently able to customize Android- or Windows-based tablets and make them into medical-use specific devices to monitor cardiac activity and glucose levels.
“Customization is where we get a strong advantage,” Smith says. “We are definitely focused on innovation and customization is where we think there’s a big advantage for us.”
TAIS also offers cloud services for healthcare organizations that might be burdened by limited availability of IT support, or organizations that need to keep secondary data centers to store patient data off-site.
Toshiba currently has two data centers located in Northern California and Virginia where it is able to house this sensitive patient information. The company charges for these services through a variety of subscription-based software-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service offerings.
The idea behind storing off-site data would be that the data can be easily replicated in the event of an emergency, like an earthquake or other type of natural disaster for example, Smith says.
As Toshiba continues to evaluate the future of healthcare, it plans to continue developing tech solutions that start with preventative health management to post-acute care after hospital discharge, Smith says.
“There’s a lot of innovation going on, especially in the home care and telehealth area,” he says. “We find that the more connected you are as an aging population, the healthier you tend to be.”
Written by Jason Oliva