Earlier this month I attended the Connected Health Conference and was struck not only by how far telemedicine has come, but also by how much humans matter with this new technology. The trend seems especially strong in products and services directed towards older people.
Yuri Quintana of Beth Israel Deaconess gave a presentation on InfoSage, which allows families to coordinate tasks and appointments, oversee their loved one’s medication and treatment plan, and in general check in to make sure they are OK. The elder decides who to let into their network and the data each person can see. The project was developed by Harvard Medical school and is funded by the department of Health and Human Services.
“Papa” is an Uber-like platform that matches college students with an older person for an ongoing relationship. The students earn $15 an hour to run errands and provide in-person and virtual companionship. Applicants are carefully vetted and paired for compatibility– only one out of 8 is hired. Papa is a simple, practical, and cost-effective idea that’s had great success where it is operating. They just received 19 million dollars in a new round of VC funding.
“People Power”, which is funded by a 4.5 million-dollar NIH grant, can connect smart devices from hundreds of IoT vendors to monitor an individual’s well-being. These devices can range from automated PERS devices to smart speakers to door locks and carbon monoxide detectors. The platform uses machine learning to consolidate data from these different sources to detect falls, sleep patterns, medication adherence and wandering. The service is monitored round the clock by home care agency to provide a stronger safety net. People Power also enables group collaboration and connection to alleviate loneliness and help the person stay in touch with loved ones.
While I was at the conference I (virtually) ran into Kendra Seavey of Boston’s own Care.coach. The person communicates with care.coach through voice via an AI-powered avatar installed on a tablet. The avatar is customized to suit the individual’s preferences. While much of the interaction is handled through technology, a support person is always listening and able to respond right away in an emergency or in a conversation. Care.coach provides companionship, coaching, and helps the individual manage chronic conditions. The service provides analytics as well as alerts to caregivers and response teams. Care.coach has been operating for several years and has won many awards. It may soon be covered by Medicare Advantage.
To a large degree Covid is driving adoption of remote services. The field of age technology has been developing quietly for many years, so these technologies are mature and field-tested. Most people want to remain in their home as they age, and these products offer a cost-effective solution to help them do this safely. Most older people cannot afford long-term care and with 11,000 people in the USA turning 65 each day, these products will meet a serious need.
To learn more about these products, please visit
• InfoSAGE https://www.infosagehealth.org
• Papa https://www.joinpapa.com/
• Care.coach https://www.care.coach/
• People Power https://www.peoplepowerco.com/iotsystem/
• The Connected Health Conference typically takes place each fall in Boston. Formerly it was sponsored by Partners Healthcare and is now sponsored by Parks Associates. http://www.parksassociates.com/events/connected-health