Home HealthSystems For The Aging 1/24/2011 7:00 AM Eastern
Jan 24, 2011 12:00 PM, By Christopher Wells
Systems For The Aging
“I want to live in my own home as long as possible.”
Such is the mantra of the baby boomers, the next generation in line to be counted among the elderly. What is exciting about this is that technology, much of the technology that you already are familiar with, is a vital element that supports a person’s ability to age in the place of their choosing. This presents the systems contractor with the opportunity to integrate these same technologies in a new and potentially profitable way.
“Home health technology” is a general phrase covering an array of hardware and software products integrated into a system whose job it is to monitor the living habits and patterns of one or more persons, generally elderly, and share that information with the relevant parties. This means, from a hardware point of view, that it includes sensors of all description, strategically located to detect the patterns and movement of the person. It can also include health monitoring devices such as weight scales; monitors for blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose; and an automatic med dispenser. Another category of devices has to do with controlling the things that an aging person might forget, such as being able to turn the stove off remotely after an alert arrives on the caregivers cell phone or to adjust the room temperature remotely if an email alert indicates it is too low. This brings us to the most important aspect: the software and hardware that takes all of this monitored information and communicates it in a timely and meaningful fashion to the caregivers. This ability to measure, log, compile, and present is what makes this type of system so valuable to those who care for seniors, and also to you as a potential new revenue stream for your company.
“It’s no secret that the elderly want to stay where they are, yet statistics show that about a fifth of family members caring for an aging loved one have to quit work,” says Jill Kerr, business relationship manager at Home Controls, the creators of the GrandCare System. “Imagine the stress this causes to the family and their resources. A system like GrandCare gives the family members and professional caregivers an environment that will send out alerts when something is wrong, track health and activity, and finally a social network where the grandchildren can send pictures and messages that can easily be viewed on an elder-friendly touchscreen. This system brings freedom and peace of mind to seniors who would otherwise be forced to move out of their home. Personally, this is a very fulfilling industry to be a part of.”
The driving force behind this age-purposed technology is threefold: First, the market size. The Census Bureau reports that during the 20th century, the U.S. population younger than age 65 tripled, but those 65 and older increased by a factor of 11. People are living longer now and that, combined with the aging baby boomers, makes for a huge market. The majority of those in this demographic, given a choice, want to age in place—within their own homes. Second, the children and grandchildren of this population generally are more supportive of this choice as long as safety is taken into consideration. This is significant because it is often the children that are making the decisions for their parents, and they typically use technology on a regular basis. Finally, we have the desire of caregivers, whether they are family members or managed care organizations, to be more efficient with their resources.
Here’s a few important market statistics: 39 million Americans are age 65 or older (senior) 10 million seniors live alone 25 percent of families care for someone outside the home 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers 79 percent of care recipients are older than 50 Informal caregiving costs are estimated at $60 billion 57 percent of the 65 and older population has a cell phone, averaging three calls per day and 34 percent sleep with their cell phone 31 percent of the 65 and older population has a broadband connection, up 1 percent from 2009 (Pew Research) Baby boomers are the fastest growing age segment of Facebook’s 500 million members The market for home health monitoring is of sufficient size that Intel and GE formed a joint venture to develop and deploy in-home health technology products. (Sources: Aging in Place Technology Watch, the National Alliance for Caregiving, and AARP)
Jan 24, 2011 12:00 PM, By Christopher Wells
Systems For The Aging
“The market for technology for aging adults will grow to $20 billion by 2020, comprised of four categories: communication and engagement, home safety and security, health and wellness, and learning and contribution. Baby boomers are also caregivers of aging parents and see the opportunity to enable both themselves and their parents to age successfully in their homes of choice,” says Laurie M. Orlov, the founder of the website “Aging in Place Technology Watch.”
The upshot of all of this is that there is a large and willing market right now for technology systems that will get them what they want, which is to age in place and be as safe as possible while they are doing it. Here are a few of the solutions designed to address this market: Philips has systems designed for the end-user as well as a facilitywide system called CarePoint. The company’s system for the home, Lifeline, is a variation of a personal emergency response system (PERS) that connects to the Philips dedicated monitoring center when it is pressed. The CarePoint system is designed for managed care facilities and uses a call communicator, which offers the ability to communicate with facility staff and provides notification of wandering clients. Finally, a new endeavor named Philips Applied Technology is developing small-footprint ZigBee devices that will create a mesh network for a complete home-use medical monitoring system.
Xanboo offers monitoring in the residence, such as movement alerts and lighting and appliance control. Text and email alerts are sent to caregivers via a smart phone or PC. Part of the system exists on the cloud, where the caregiver can view live camera feeds (though there are the obvious privacy issues here) and the status of devices including thermostats, lights, and appliances.
GrandCare Systems exists as a premium system that offers all the bells and whistles and then some. It includes a full range of monitoring sensors and a system to chart activity, health vitals, and medication. Additionally, it gives the elder person the tools to communicate with loved ones. This takes the form of a touchscreen with large buttons that can operate as a standalone device or interact with a TV to display pictures from family members, emails, games, and upcoming events. All of this is said to occur seamlessly without the person needing to know a single thing about PCs.
In addition to Xanboo and GrandCare, there are a number of other companies offering cloud-based portals for communication and data tracking. For example, the company InTouchLink focuses on the social aspect, providing a simple, intuitive software that allows seniors to use email and the Internet. Another company, BeClose, leverages Alarm.com’s cloud technologies, delivering an informative Web interface. And then there is CloseBy Network, which has partnered with the automation company Control4 to deliver a comprehensive activity monitoring system.
While we probably can’t say the possibilities are endless, it is clear there is significant presence in this market of newbie startups and heavy hitters. So the question you might be asking is, “Is this right for me and my business?” That is the million dollar question and it depends on several factors. First, you will need to do your due diligence to decide whether the numbers work for your business. How will you approach this business? Will you target large heath care facilities, assisted living companies, or end-users? One of these approaches might be better suited to your business model. Also, while this business has hardware, it is not as hardware intensive as say, digital signage. If you target assistive living, it is more about efficiently integrating a simple system and beginning to build a recurring revenue stream through the monthly cloud subscription services. Finally, if you are the owner or a principal of an integration firm, do you think it would be a fit for not only your company but for you? You are going to be dealing with seniors and their family members, often at a time when life-altering decisions must be made. If it is a fit, home health technology might just be that type of business that will fill your wallet and your heart. What could be better than that?