For those of you in and around this industry, this is very cool. Today's NY Times has a lengthy front page feature by John Leland called "Sensors Help to Keep the Elderly Safe, and Living Independently at Home." Give it a read. It includes mention of HealthSense eNeighbor™, Meridian Health, Quiet Care, Jitterbug -- and a number of seniors who are happy to be alive and still living on their own. These vendors hopefully all get a boost from such broad-based publicity (with photos and device explanations.)
But several issues bubble out of the quotes from healthcare experts -- I think these need some thought -- and perhaps some pushback:
"Until they're launched on a wide-scale basis, you just don't know." Dr. Brent Ridge (Mount Sinai School of Medicine) when asked about sensor-based home monitoring tech like New Courtland was using observed: "On an individual basis we've demonstrated that they can be very effective, but on a wide-scale basis...physicians might say: I'm already overstretched, I don't have time for all this data."
My take: Not sure why we're worrying about the doctor. The data doesn't have to be processed or sent in volume to a doctor; rather, unexpected behavior can be detected from home monitoring sensors and only that information (alert) is sent to a designated call responder, who could be a nurse, a nurse's aide on duty in an assisted living facility, a home care agency, an alarm company staffed by EMT's, or a call chain of nearby family members.
"It somehow absolves kin of the responsibility." Dr. Stuti Dang of Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, said that one unforseen consequence was that "the daughter doesn't have to call every day because she knows that something is wrong with her father, she would receive an alert. This is good for the patient, but there needs to be personal responsibiltiy."
My take: This one is very interesting in the context of many statistics on job time loss (and cost to companies) due to one out of four in the US involved in caregiving. Having assistance in monitoring parents so that a daughter doesn't have to call every day about her father -- this is a good thing! If her father needs more company or a chance to talk with his daughter (or even a cell phone of his own), that's a completely separate issue.
"But until there is more research -- and reimbursement --...impact remains unknown." It's not that we need new technologies, says Dr. Jeffrey Kaye of Oregon Health and Science University. We need to use what we have more creatively. It's all cool, but is it going to be helpful?"
My take: First of all, the technology that exists today is not 'all cool' or 'enough'. Certainly more of what exists should be deployed when so many elderly people don't want and cannot afford to move. As for all cool? I think even those in this industry will acknowledge that the state of the art for design and cost has yet to be achieved.
Innovation is not done. It is not yet common knowledge among those with aging parents that sensor technologies are possible, let alone, standard in a home -- placed there as a matter of course to help baby boomers and seniors remain safe, even if and when they suffer from chronic diseases or disabilities.
Netting it out: We are at a point where home monitoring technologies are available to consumers and if they help even one elderly person avoid a debilitating accident and remain longer in a home they love, maybe that's validation enough.