Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
PERS devices and wearables – what will bring them together? Now that the Washington Post has declared that Apple and Google will solve our health problems, aren’t you relieved? Oh, you’re a bit concerned about your privacy, the fact that all of your outside-of-Facebook web searches are by default accessible to Facebook – that you have to opt out on a completely separate website in order to terminate tracking of this activity? As you wander around Google, Yahoo or through iTunes, your searches about health topics, those are all now relevant for advertisers as provided by Facebook! And extra-special, what do you think about the fact that Apple lobbied away any need for FDA approval for anything health-related? Feeling safely healthy now?
Back to PERS – what you see is what they get. The PERS industry is skating on its long and unchanged history – and pretending that the service providers know NOTHING about the buyer’s health status, the changes in their activity level, their walking pace, or their decline over time. And they’re getting away with it. So far, seniors that you know, perhaps that you already help, are receiving these products -- with their much-vaunted long battery life, some now can be doused in water, most have ready-and-waiting call centers, etc. These are largely the same not-so-disruptive technologies that have been around for decades, with mobile PERS and some fall detection as the only device innovations that can be, uh, detected.
Can these be wearable health tracking devices? Of course, why not? Could a wearable wrist PERS device have a dehydration sensor like this silly feature for runners who forgot their water bottles? Samsung and Apple will both be able to tell those mHealthy jogging folks to pause and drink something. PERS manufacturers (and the resellers that promote them) don’t and they won’t any time soon. They won’t because you the resellers, you the referrers, you the makers, you the buyers – doctors, nurses, ALFs or otherwise, you don’t tell them that the product needs to change if you're going to buy. So even if a company like Philips, the largest in the PERS space, could offer a way to track dehydration, or perhaps wandering, decline, and a host of other characteristics that we are now going to see in smartphones and fitness gadgets – they don't have to and so they won't.
What I want in a PERS device and service when I'm 84. Not will you still need me, but now that we need someone to watch over us, let us ask - what will that be? Why not give the manufacturers, and while we're at it, the carriers and resellers, plenty of pondering time? I would like to put this device on my wrist, and no, not the wrist with my watch on it. This future PERS pairs itself with some server-type app that I have already agreed (or my caregivers have agreed) should be accessible. Just like all of these websites today, it starts itself up with any useful info that has been provided through my now-smarter physician’s portal that includes any meds, diagnoses, and baselines – pace, heart rate, blood pressure, whatever represents the future’s whole nine yards of health tracking. And with its I’m Okay, You’re Okay graphical status-check icons, anyone who wants to know about that status and also has the right permissions – they will know my status. But hopefully you won't be able to Google it and it won't be viewable on your iPhone. Hopefully.