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March Newsletter 2010 (As blog post)

What begins with C? Caregiver, chronic disease, channel, consumer.  Traveling in March around the conference circuit of the HR-oriented Care Summit, the age-related specialists at the ASA Aging in America conference, walking among entrepreneurs at What's Next, and the electronics dealers at the Electronic House Expo -- it an interesting sequence. It pushed me to wonder: when does the market interest of a boomer overlap with that of a senior? When does an electronic house become a health-monitoring zone? When do health-related issues fully synch up with issues of aging? Is the caregiving task list different for someone with chronic disease, for an ill child, or for an elderly parent? And overall, who is the consumer/buyer? Together, we can all help answer these questions.

C is for chronic disease and patient care. With the Continua endorsement of e-Care, the concept of communicating health status information through broadband connections still seems to be confined to thinking about the recipient as patient. This (otherwise known as a person) has vital signs and conditions to be monitored:  if e-Care is enabled by greater broadband reach, maybe we won't have to drive or be driven to the doctor's office or hospital. But clearly, in the world of tech-enabled health, care means health-care, provided and delivered by the health-care industry.

C is also for context. As with 'e-Care', caregiving is a word viewed through the lens of the viewer. Topics and ideas originate from context -- and then shape frameworks, products, advice, and best practices.  At one event, context shocked: The speaker began describing a story with: "My husband and child were killed last year" and then she paused and choked up. Sitting on the panel for the next session, I could see the audience collectively stop breathing. Eventually she would say how she has moved on with her life and appreciated that she had access to online resources to help her through the crisis. The overall topic? This context was about caregiving as an employer issue that requires flexibility and rich information support.

But C is also for consumer, channel, and caregiving family members. Often just as crisis-driven, the search for information about elder care issues and solutions can be a consumer-oriented topic, shaping communities of interest into media businesses that attract advertisers seeking their consumer audiences -- evident at ASA and the Boomer Business What's Next symposium -- like Caring.com (elder care issues) VibrantNation.com (boomer women), Grandparents.com (exactly what it sounds like) and many others.  But does that mean that firms that address health-related issues like managing fall risk, monitoring chronic disease, or mitigating issues associated with dementia should target their offerings direct to consumer?  Or should they cultivate dealers, installers, and service providers (like those at EHX) who go into the home and look around?

Please provide answers! And for more thoughts on these and other imponderable topics, here are three March blog posts:

Why do the same telehealth studies again to repeatedly prove the same benefits? One press release too many -- and I thought I was seeing things. YATS -- Yet Another Telehealth Study -- kicked off prove the effectiveness and savings home use of telehealth monitoring of seniors with chronic disease. Have we seen this movie before? And the comments about the readiness of the healthcare industry to change were better than the blog post -- especially "Don't expect turkeys to vote for Christmas!". See what I mean.

Senior housing trends for the next ten years -- has year one already happened? Ecumen's Eric Schubert offered predictions about trends in senior housing that indicate use of technology as standard practice. One wonders when an industry that slowed to a near-crawl during the housing and economic bust will see the use of technologies as standard practice, delivering competitive amenities -- not just in their own units, but broadening their reach into their surrounding communities.

Startups, new starts, new AgeTek association -- it's been a busy month.  This month saw the emergence of a brand new trade association for small tech vendors who see that a whole lot of energy is more than the sum of the parts.  AgeTek launched at ASA -- with a variety of membership options and ideas for how to accelerate growth of an emerging industry. Meanwhile Philips launched Lifeline with AutoAlert.  Also launched, BeClose Networks and Early Bird Alert.

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