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From 101,000 to 422,000 -- mostly women.

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Technology state of the art outpaces senior adoption

For med management – are blister packs the state of the art? Recently I heard about a presentation in a senior housing provider family meeting that should not have surprised me. A pharmacy exec was presenting the benefits and savings of switching residents from pill bottles to blister packs - warning of the sizable penalties associated with continuing with labor-intensive pill bottles. Wal-Mart is deploying this cardboard packaging for a multi-drug regimen across 4600 stores. Medication management is a big issue for senior housing (AL and SNF) and there are state-by-state regulations for its proper oversight.  But just like the presentation I heard about, is technology use for its dispensing and management considered?  Perhaps seeing that, check out how Philips is bundling several technology-enabled services for senior housing organizations to deploy… in private homes, that is, for the folks who may never move in.

The more tech that’s invented, how much is utilized? We are in a tech-saturated time – sensors, tracking labels, miniaturization, mobileThis and mThat, smart phones for this, tablets for that. This has excited a health-related market and created a new industry of mobile health innovation. And smart phone AND tablet ownership have both risen from 13% to 18% among the 65+ (somehow I bet the same responder has both devices).  Does this mean it is time for a mobile health app aimed at the older population or a smarter pill bottle like GlowCaps – now available in CVS? Will seniors switch to a device like MedMinder or maybe the just-announced AdhereTech reminder pill bottle? Direct consumers may, of course, include some older adults or perhaps adult children who may buy on behalf of their parents. I have not seen a recent survey of older adults to know who among the 75+ uses any of these products.

No tech, low-tech – are seniors, especially older women, losing out? For the moment, let’s assume that senior housing organizations are not driving a groundswell of tech adoption. Reverse the Pew percentage – 72% of seniors do not have smart phones or tablets – thus are unlikely to be in the mHealth target market. Maybe they just want to be left alone. But they are routinely defrauded of their resources by crooks – $3 billion -- that see them as an easy target. One in four of the ten million aged 65+ population lives alone; the majority are women. Only a very small percentage, that is the wealthy oldest, are living in assisted living or they and their assets are spent down in nursing homes.  Outside of the optimal income level or age range, they’re home alone – sitting ducks for phony phone calls from credit card companies, bogus sales pitches, and banks that one might think could be trusted with money! Technology doesn’t solve every problem, but it can be comforting when isolated (see Facebook), convenient when far away (see mobile banking tech), and consultative in unlikely circumstances (see remote diagnostic technologies).


Those of us who help seniors live well know that effective medication management is one of the key areas of concern. More important than a pill dispenser is the need for seniors to take the right medication at the right dosing during the right time of day. With 6,000 drugs on the market, most seniors are over prescribed and physicians do not really know the side effects of the Rx stew that a senior consumes. Creating a simple list of the drugs taken, along with the dosing, and having that reviewed by a pharmacist at a local drugstore before going with questions to the doctor is the easiest way to minimize the use of unnecessary drugs. The best app I've seen for this is and the firm ActualMeds is working on a software solution for the physician office. Check that out.

In all fairness, I did start in the industry in 1965 as a programmer with the New York Blood Center without a college degree and rose to various CIO roles in industry and government, advisor, etc. By the time I earned my undergrad degree, I had been a VP for 10 years; my MBA came two years after my BS, all working full time!
A major coup was getting my husband--who also has an IT background, though different from mine, to do a tech upgrade from clunkers to all Apple! 


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