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June 2011

Aging in Place Technology Watch June 2011 Newsletter

Google Health, a solution for a problem you didn't know you had. Why did Google launch Google Health in 2008 -- and shut it down this week? I picture folks there imagining in our health-conscious, self-care oriented Internet searchers, yearning for a place to park our personal records, and that the advertisers, knowing this, would ultimately layer in oodles of ads that related specifically our growing health self-management needs and wants. Sorting and organizing our personal health (or elder care) information on an online website -- it sounds like a good idea. From the Times article in 2008: "The companies all hope to capitalize eventually on the trend of increasingly seeking health information online, and the potential of Internet tools to help consumers manage their own health care and medical spending."  Well, they got the former quite right. With more than 60,000 sites to look for a name-that-diagnosis factoid, we are both desperately and patiently seeking health information (sadly not necessarily correlating with our improved health). But unless our insurance companies mandated and incented us to enter data online -- or our post-clipboard era doctors required it, do we really want to put our med lists (or any other personal information lists) on advertising-sponsored sites (including WebMD)? If our credit card files can be hacked and siphoned away, even just thinking our health information (or that our aging parents) is out there, reusable, intentionally or not, should give vendors pause -- and so it did -- bye bye, Google Health.

Health IT must include senior quality of life technology

Forbes says health IT is hot -- although not yet profitable. A title of a Forbes article caught my eye recently: "Health IT entrepreneurs, now is your time." It went on to note that "the sector is being energized thanks in large part to government subsidies which reward doctors and hospitals for buying electronic health records (EHRs)." The article then talks about VC investment plans, who's investing, and offers a few examples of startup ideas. Think about this request from the "government's Health Data Initiative, which invites entrepreneurs to develop applications based on their mounds of health data collected by the government." Oh yeah, that would be extremely helpful to the government -- perhaps to refine rankings focused on hospital readmissions -- which really are about seniors -- heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia readmissions that cost Medicare $12 billion per year. But think what it means to have better reports, more rankings, more granular punishment to providers. That's good for the government -- under the theory that if one reports and punishes at the far end of the health care process, perhaps the beginning of the process of care will just fix itself.

Recently launched technology for aging in place

Innovation is alive and well in the aging in place technology space although it hasn't all been recently catalogued here.  So catching up with some recent press releases and product announcements from the April to June timeframe, here are more technologies for helping older adults. Each of these will include information from the vendor and a link to learn more at their website -- in addition, you may find a vendor press release in that category of this site (lower right side of home page). In no particular order:

Dementia care technologies -- another look

Technologies to keep those with dementia safe at home.   How you ask the question changes the answer. A few weeks ago, I revised my thinking about dementia care technology. The catalyst:An interviewer with the Cincinnati Enquirer called me a few weeks ago for a story she was doing -- and asked me about the technologies that could enable those with Alzheimer's or other dementias to remain safely in their homes.  When asked the question that way, I realized that there were quite a few and worth summarizing and referencing more of the vendors in this blog post -- none were in the article to the degree that a previous blog posts on caegiving tech and Azheimer's tracking technologies (2009). So here is an expansion on the Cincinnati Enquirer's published story including statements from the interview/article and expansion:

In healthcare, is half a technology better than none?

Hospitals say don't come back -- but do they mean it? Apparently hospitals needed the current push from the government to figure out a way to keep patients, especially the elderly, from being re-admitted within 30 days of their departure.  So now many hospitals are on the case, working their way through individual pilot programs designed the way they see fit, one pilot program at a time. In an article whimsically titled 'Don't Come Back, Hospitals Say,' today's WSJ offered up Boston University's 'Louise', a 'virtual discharge advocate' wheeled up to bedside (aka a software app) to offer discharge instructions to patients (post hospital regimens, including lists of meds) as they ready to leave the hospital.  BU's Project RED (Re-Engineered Discharge) converts into a packet of materials that offer up a medication dosage package and instructions.

Does today's tech alienate the elderly?

Listening to professors talk about computers and the elderly.  For the past 2 Thursdays, I've listened to ASA webinars with two professors from Pace University talking about their 'intergenerational computing gerontechnology program' -- fine-tuned over time to engage college students at Pace University in technology service-learning projects. These involve training older adults -- many in nursing homes -- to use computers for-mail, photo attachments, video chat, web searching and online shopping.  Professors Jean Coppola and Barbara Thomas conducted grant-funded research studies around these semester-long training programs (ratio of 1 student to 2 seniors) to assess changes in both the seniors and in the attitudes towards aging of the students. The curriculum they have developed and outcome measurements includes both the age sensitivity training for the college students as well as outcome measures of older adult participants.  For seniors, measured outcomes included improved motor skills, self-confidence, eye-hand coordination, and reduction in depression and tendencies towards isolation.