Sensor Technology May Enable Successful Ageing-in-Place and, Concomitantly, Increase Value in The Process
As life expectancy and the proportion of people aged 65 and over increase, and integrated care and cost containment become a concern to many health organizations and policy-makers, technologies that utilize sensors to come up with new and innovative ways to support the elderly successfully age-in-place are increasingly becoming commonplace.
A flurry of new start-up health tech companies, mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships are entering the data analytics and sensor space to support seniors well-being. What once started as sensor networks in facilitated facilities and nursing homes are now moving into to every imaginable inanimate object in seniors private homes or apartments.
Caremerge has a database of patient data from diagnoses, medications and allergies, and Lively develops passive movement sensors that can be placed in various spots in an elderly person’s home (i.e. the refrigerator, a pillbox, keychain, etc). So the cloud will be able notify caregivers when meals are eaten, medications are taken, if anyone leaves the house. More importantly, the platform can also notify caregivers if any disruption from a daily routine occurs. Although the partnership was announced relatively recently, they are in the process of taking in a few initial customers to test out their platform.
This business model is not unique for the vital sign monitoring and emergency detection space. Other similar ventures include: beclose, healthsense, and GrandCareSystems, among others.
Sensors to monitor vital signs need not be limited to being placed in inanimate objects. Research is underway to examine how to impant miniature sensors that can continuously monitor and report on a person’s health status.
Sensors introduce a whole wealth of data on patient behaviours that can be used to coordinate and integrate the management of care. So its no surprise that this space is seeing a lot of investment growth from traditional investors, but also from a growing number of large hospital networks and non-health IT companies.
The increasing trend in sensors and smart technology suggests that being monitored-all-the-time may soon become the norm for the elderly as they age. It may even spread to the non-elderly after, as “Smart homes” may become standard.
The applications for sensors to enable successful ageing-in-place seem limitless!
With more than $7.4 billion for over 1,393 deals occurring in the Health IT space since 2010, according to Startup Health, it would not be far-fetched to expect more excitement and innovations in this area very soon.
Beautiful photos of elders. It’s rare that we see these. We spend a lot of time talking about ageing and elders, but we rarely highlight the beauty of years of laugh lines, eyes that have seen generations grow, and skin that has truly weathered the storms. Ageing is beautiful, and the photographer Danny Santos II depicted it when he photographed seniors for Project Silverline, an initiative by SingTel to put refurbished iPhones in the hands of seniors, to enhance their interactions, their health, and ease the sense of isolation many elders feel. To see the photos that Danny took of seniors in Singapore, click here.
Today’s blog post is written by Kristina Saudargaite who is the founder of inBelly. This organization is already helping children at schools to have better food by identifying and classifying additives. Now, inBelly wants to branch out to another sensitive target group, the elderly. Read Kristina’s story here:
My name is Kristina Saudergaite and I love food. I love eating, cooking, going to the grocery store etc. I also love knowing what I eat. For this purpose, my friends and I once looked at the ingredient list. We saw many chemical names that we could not understand or tell how they affect our health. Thus, we checked.
The results shocked us! Commonly used E250 is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as probably carcinogenic to humans or in simple words it is likely to cause cancer. E211 or sodium benzoate is not harmful on its own; however, it reacts with vitamin C and releases benzene – a known toxin. And who does not eat products often containing E211 such as shrimps together with a slice of lemon or maybe drinking Must with a salad
These are only a few examples; but food is increasingly stuffed with chemicals and this puts our health at risk.
The amounts of additives that may cause adverse effects are regulated by the EU. The problem lies in the fact that tests are made on healthy individuals (or animals). However, sensitive subgroups such as the elderly may be much more susceptive to the additives and adverse health effects related to them. Nursing homes do not have enough information to make sure that the food they buy do not contain harmful ingredients.
inBelly has the expertise and a rigorous database on food additives. Moreover, we have a technological solution that enables to quickly check if a product contains anything harmful.
In Sweden we have found many food products containing additives banned in other countries, such as Canada and/or linked to diseases. This knowledge exists in academia and in public documents but since the information is presented in a complicated and scattered manner, it rarely reaches the wider public. inBelly is unique since it uses official and scientific information about food additives and depicts it in a non-scientific “easy-to-understand” kind of way. The app simply shows a sign indicating that the scanned product contains additives banned in other countries. Our service innovation lies in using a mobile solution to translate knowledge from academia into simple visual signs in order to make the information quickly and easily available to everyone. With our mobile app people can scan barcodes and get information whether this particular product contains any ingredients that may be linked to diseases. The initiative won the Stockholm Innovation award in the service category 2012.
We are currently using this knowledge to help pre-schools to choose better food. We are cooperating with the chef at Globala Gymnasium to go through the products they purchase and analyse if any of them contain additives that may be harmful. This helps the institutions to ensure better food.
Since the elderly, similarly to children, is a sensitive group, we plan to offer our services to help nursing homes to go through the food they serve the elderly and check if they contain harmful additives. This would ensure good quality food and best possible health and wellbeing for the elderly.
Follow inBelly on facebook.com/inBelly or on Twitter @inbelly_guide
This week’s Modern Aging blog post comes from an American medical illustrator with a passion to improve health communication for elderly through visual media. Please read about the digital tool she is developing:
“I am excited to share with you an idea I have been developing as a social innovation for the elderly in health care. Today I will tell you about myself, and why I am considering the health needs of the elderly in Sweden. I will introduce the problem needing attention and how I propose to tackle it. Finally, I will let you know how you can connect with me if you would like to be part of this dialogue!
So who am I, and what brought me to Sweden? Well, my name is Anneliese, and I am an American citizen with Swedish heritage from both sides of my family. In 2010 I traveled to the “motherland” to see where my farmor, and my mormors parents came from. While visiting, I bonded with new friends and distant relatives, but visiting with relatives from my grandparent’s generation over fika was particularly special for me. During that trip I decided I wanted to come back to Sweden to study and experience more of Swedish society.
While back in the US making plans to return to Sweden, I was witness to the failing health and death of my mormor, Anna, and morfar, Winston. Winston lost his life, at 93 years of age, as a result of Alzheimer’s. While Anna, who suffered from morbidities common in the elderly, died only a few months after at 91 years. These experiences with my own family helped me to realize many of the challenges facing our aging global population. Now, I look to apply my education, work experience and research to help address these challenges.
My recent research has focused on the communications between patients and their care providers. The clinical setting can present many communication barriers, including a power dynamic between the patient, with limited knowledge, and the care provider, with greater knowledge. For the elderly, dementia, learning style, literacy and language skills can also contribute to communication barriers they face when determining their health needs. Further, many elderly patients have an increased number of health appointments where they might struggle to remember what to ask their care provider, or may not be aware of the proper questions to ask. Additionally, they will need to remember details communicated to them after an appointment. If not recorded, these details can be easily forgotten. My solution is simple, “Ask for Answers.”
Ask for Answers is a media based tool (web/app), which aims to arm the aging population with the questions they should have available when visiting a health provider. The questions target their specific communication needs and are broken down by medical specialties to be more effective. Patients can use the electronic interface to access their questions, type answers, exchange email with the provider, record audio of answers – which can then be transcribed, and even take photos of drawings or notes. The information would then be accessible later when the patient may have trouble recalling details from the appointment, or need to share them with another care provider.
Ask for Answers is centered on improving health communications between care providers and the elderly. It is a simple, user-friendly tool that focuses on enabling and empowering aging patients to better manage their health. With the aid of Ask for Answers, patient knowledge and satisfaction may increase, potentially resulting in improved health outcomes.”
Written by Anneliese Lilienthal
Continuing our blog series, Modern Aging Ideas, this week we are featuring the entrepreneur Oscar Lundqvist who is developing a tool that allows relatives to elderly staying at nursing homes, to stay updated on activities and wellbeing of their beloved parents and grandparents. Please read about Oscar’s work experience at a nursing home which lead to his discovering of a need for innovation:
This fall I am a participant of the Modern Aging program that Access Health International is running. The program is full of lectures and workshops that educate and inspire us about the elderly care market, innovations and business training. They are doing their best to give us all the helpful tools you need if you want to succeed with a new idea on the elderly care market.
I first heard about the Modern Aging program on Carema Care’s webpage. Before that, I was choosing between two different future plans; either to work with elderly care or to be an entrepreneur. When I read about the Modern Aging application, the thought of combining the two future plans hit me for the first time.
My interest in elderly care began when I shortly after high school started working for the private care provider Carema Care. I worked there for three years with purchasing food for a nursing home. My plans for entrepreneurship were ignited as a student at Södertörns University. I am currently studying my last year in a three-year program in entrepreneurship, innovation and market.
The idea that I applied to the Modern Aging program with was formed during my time at the nursing home. I observed that there was a broad mix of relatives to the elderly in the home with varying visiting habits. Some relatives were there every day, others once a month and some visited only on rare occasions. But they all had something in common; the next of kin always wanted to know how their relative was feeling. When they were visiting they would ask the staff questions about the elderly’s health and about what kind of activities their relative had been enrolled in.
For full-time working relatives, it may not be feasible to visit the elderly every week, which prevents them from keeping up to date with the activity board posted by the care workers in the hallway and to have a good dialogue with the contact person. And in many cases, the relatives feel guilt about these scenarios. If the staff could update the relatives online on how the elderly is feeling, what kind of activities are going on and opening up for a dialogue with the staff directly through a smartphone app or by logging on to a webpage, many of these problems would be solved.
If the next of kin was updated all the time it would bring a feeling of security for them and it may also improve the communication between all involved parties. And if the staff were required to post information about the activities of the elderly, that would be an additional incentive for them to activate the elderly more. Based on my experience working at a nursing home, these are very important benefits that affect both the relatives and the elderly.
This present an easy solution to a great concern that many relatives are posed with and I would argue that this kind of technological tool should be standard for each and every elderly being cared for at a nursing home and their relatives.