Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
AAHSA/Leading Age -- change is incremental. As it turns out, not a big deal, skipping a year of conferences in my quest to find innovation in the use of technology for the benefit of residents among the senior housing sector. I didn’t see too much new (exceptions below). The former American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA, now optimistically renamed Leading Age), is a 5400-member organization of senior executives from the faith-based and non-profit senior housing sector, spanning most of the nursing home/rehabilitation facilities in the US – typically campus-based CCRCs. This year is the 50th anniversary of AAHSA/Leading Age, and they celebrated by including international organizations from as far away as Australia.
CAST is still CAST. The AAHSA/Leading Age Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST) is a sub-group of Leading Age that was spearheaded six years ago by Eric Dishman in conjunction with Intel’s long-time interest in research about tech and seniors. (The Digital Health Group that he led is now partially spun out into the Intel/GE venture, Care Innovations.) It’s a credit to the Leading Age board that it continues to fund CAST and its progress reports, analysis of state funding for technology devices, its catalog of technologies, even as the economic downturn has been challenging for senior housing occupancy.
The CAST member tech survey shed light on pilots but did not reflect momentum. Meanwhile, Majd Alwan, continues his team’s research effort as CAST’s technology champion. On the conference’s first full day, he told the (sparse) audience attending a case studies session about the response results from members about their surveyed (sparse) use of technology. With only an 18% response rate from the membership, he regretfully told folks that the survey about utilization could/would not be published. My impression after scanning the show floor, speaking with vendors and visiting the ever-beautiful, beautifully furnished (and sparingly tech’ed) Idea House is that non-responders were silent because their use of technology for residents continues to be minimal.
First-time participants exhibited and senior housing executives saw great tech. Great Call (with well over 500,000 customers and its new 5Star Responder service) was among the first time tech exhibitors. Also first-time at Leading Age: Hamilton CapTel (telephone caption services for the hearing impaired), InTouchLink (software to simplify computers) and Telekin (an easy-to-use computer for seniors, signing up more than 1000/month). Each of these provides benefit for current and prospective residents of brick-and-mortar campus communities. But they also present an opportunity for senior housing to expand services into the community of seniors who are still (and perhaps permanently) in their homes.
New vendors enter the market. LifeShare Technologies has entered with communications technology (sharing pictures, messages, web content) that can be used at home or in senior housing. BAM Labs offers smart bed technology that can track health status (and bed exits) and offer care quality reports -- how frequently has a bed-bound person been turned by a caregiver. Status Solutions introduced CATIE – an ‘interactive multi-media touch screen kiosk’ that enables seniors to communicate with families and get updates on what’s going on in their community
Something’s got to give – Leading Age has resources, home care has growth. The hesitation of senior housing leaders (more akin to real estate holding companies like their for-profit brethren in ALFA, see May event observations) to make a serious showing in the home care business is not surprising. I suspect they are just plain fearful of new competitors, thinner margins, risk. But with their hesitation, it appears that they are willing to turn that market over to home health and companion care companies. As care (and reimbursement) head away from assisted living, nursing homes, and rehabs into the home – the brick-and-mortar strategy will need a virtual makeover. And for tech vendors, with adoption inside brick-and-mortar so limited, isn't it time for a well-defined home care and consumer-oriented strategy?