Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Meet or hear Laurie in one of the following:

CAP Conference, Asheville, NC, Aug 15-17.

Washington, DC, July 23.

National Church Residences, Columbus, OH, September, 2019

AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence, Oct 23, 2019

2019 LTC InsurTech, Silicon Valley, DC, Nov 7, 2019

DC Longevity Summit, December, 2019

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Overcoming inertia in tech adoption -- create something new for the user

Are Health and senior tech products used consistently and to purpose?  When the ultimate user is not necessarily an enthusiastic participant in product use, forget it. Consider the factors noted in Donna Cusano’s recent Field of Dreams post on Telecare Aware, summarized by: “Know you need/want the product. Okay, then it must be Easy to use, providing positive reinforcement (with social and community support) – and I would add, affordable. 1) Ease of use (let’s also assume that the product works!), 2) reinforcement, 3) affordable. Pick two, you can’t have all three. (Note I didn’t say pet-rock trendy, much loved by Walt Mossberg and shown off in coffee shops.)

When all else is equal, positive reinforcement is the key.  If there is something in it for the user that is apparent in regular usage, where the user is the buyer, and it meets the other requirements, then happiness rules, the user pays the price, subscription fee or whatever, only dropping it when something even more useful can replace it. On the other hand, when tech offers an indirect or deferred benefit to the user (telehealth, any fitness/wellness apps, passive activity monitoring, PHR/EMR, home security systems, or various PERS), without positive reinforcement, why should the user keep the tech ON and in use? The only motivation then becomes FEAR – of falling, of break-ins, of physical breakdown, of memory loss, of being re-hospitalized. Observes Frost and Sullivan about the PERS market: "However, these traditional systems are simplistic and they are of little help in actual prevention and life management. As the PERS market evolved from the securities market, issues of maturity and severe sales practices that do not bode well for the long-term growth have also restrained the market."

Isn’t it time for telehealth, PERS etc, products to give back to the user?  GrandCare Systems is surely a pioneer in enabling a passive monitoring system to use the term “communication and monitoring system” about its offering, Independa’s Angela “for fun and social engagement” along with the medication reminders, focusing on prevention versus fear, as with BeClose.  Contrast that with the face-down/on the floor joylessness of Lifeline or the frowning (and floor-bound) woman in the TV ads from LifeAlert?  The software investment is low to add some content, some reassurance and social connections to the fearful people (and their families) that might be transfixed by those ads.

It’s never enough to leave well-enough alone. ‘If the strategy ain’t broke’ theory keeps traditional PERS, telehealth, and passive monitoring companies behaving exactly the same from one year to the next. But even for the entrenched and heads-down, the success from rear-viewing the mirror is time-limited. Channel partnerships may be limited – if you’re counting on senior housing executives’ enthusiasm, perhaps reading the latest Senior Housing News might give pause. As one of the largest, Brookdale, reported to its investors: “The average age of those living in independent living has shifted a few years older to the mid-80s with the average age of assisted living residents in the late 80s to early 90s-- the older prospective residents represent a “smaller pool of age and income qualified people.” It wasn’t long ago that this industry was thriving and growing, built on the inexorable forward motion of an aging population.  Oops.


Creating something new isn't the end goal. Finding a better way to do something is. For example, you are worried about your frail parents so you ask the next-door neighbor to call you if the drapes aren't open by 10 am. But, the neighbor doesn't necessarily want that responsibility. Solution: BeClose or GrandCare or other in-home passive monitoring systems. Or maybe get your parents to be your Fitbit "buddy" so you can see their activity levels. Want to stay in touch with a lot of far flung people? Facebook or Google+ make it a lot easier. Want to clip pictures on the Internet? Pinterest lets you easily create your own online scrapbook.

I do like the idea of positive reinforcement which can be programmed into devices. For example, the BeClose system can send you a daily email that sums up the activity level on the previous day. You can also ask for "exception" alerts, to alert you to something that happened or didn't happen.

Bosch Health Buddy prides itself on the feedback system it has built over the last decade. Sparkpeople and LoseIt all have free weight-loss forums for participation with others of like-intents. Perhaps our AIP vendors need to consider "family support" as one of their features - where you can discuss caregiving issues that become apparent with your product. Anyone doing that through forums now?

Since it is a fact that possibly 100 million people in North America, in some way, are caring for a LOVED-ONE. I believe the channel to ultimately assist the cared-for is through their LOVED-ONE! They are in most cases younger, extremely motivated to help - through an inherent need to 'give-back'; responsibility, guilt..., and have control in many cases of the funds involved. They are 'sandwiched' and somewhat selfishly need respite from overwhelming time constraints, stress resulting from their caregiving that detracts from THEIR own quality of life. So, KNEKTUS (suite of apps) is not primarily aimed at the seniors (although if there is interest and capability they can use) but their LOVED-ONES and surrounding caring people, to manage, assist, to make life easier for themselves as well as their seniors.
My history and subsequent life experiences (IBM 1967-1978 +) has provided the understanding of the need for SIMPLICITY (in technology etc) and therefore embrace of systems that really relate to the user. There are so many efforts in place (hardware/software) that are missing the point, design must not be robust or with feature overload, the key factor is execution to allow for longterm acceptance and use - with product that truely helps the user (artists call it MINIMALISM)!!
There is nothing NEW, it is the genious of seeing a need and 'twisting' what is available, adding a touch of divergent thinking, to ensure we make it elegant and extremely SIMPLE to use to guarantee adoption!!
I think we should all look at the kids "toy" Leapfrog for guidance.

I think minimalism is correct. I work in a major Chicago hospital, and we're always looking for new mobile computing units that we can use in our units. We've discovered that there are more handset computing units coming into play than ever before. They are easy to use (they run on Windows) and they can scan bar codes and take pictures. We're pushing for them (I think Motorola's mc55 is one we're considering based on its durability) to get accepted across the hospitals in our area. We hope that we can prevent accidents and mishaps if we can all come to a realization that computers in hospitals need to be simple to use.

Martin Wolf, MD

Yes, interesting observation, ease of use is an essential component. Our technology is principally used as a drug free mobile digital therapy for joint pain. We did exhaustive study on patient experience. No surprise, the two most important points revealed efficacy and simplicy which I believe had a direct effective on the adoption of the WilloMD. At each product innovation, I remind my development team "efficacy and simplicity".

There are some excellent points that the PERS and other ‘senior technologies’ are relying on fear instead of the benefit to the actual end-user. You also brought up several companies that are trying to change it, but none of the companies have become huge in the market and some have been around several years. I think the more important thing to analyze is why haven’t these companies that are showing obvious benefit to seniors been more widely adopted by properties?

We need to take a tough look at what technologies are properties adopting and why? Are they doing the same things they have always been doing or are they listening to ways that they can improve their residents lives, and I mean really truly actually improve their lives as Laurie suggested. Right now I’m just seeing pats on the back and lip service to technology innovators. What we need to see is true adoption from properties – it will change the way prospective residents view their communities, is the only way to improve operating efficiencies for properties, will increase operating margins for properties, will encourage further technology innovation, and ultimately everyone wins.

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