“It’s like déjà vu all over again” as Yogi Berra, the fast-with-a-quip Baseball Hall of Fame catcher-coach-manager once said. About 2006-7, telecare broke through as a real-world technology and the tone of the articles then was much like how this New York Times article starts. But the article, in the context of events in the past two years, indicate that finally, finally there is a turning point in care tech, and we are on the Road to Critical Mass, where the build, even with a few hitches, is unstoppable.
Have telehealth, telecare, digital health or TECS (whatever you’d like to call it) turned the corner of acceptability? More than that, has it arrived at what industrial designer Raymond Loewy dubbed MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) in keeping older adults safer and healthier at home? The DIY-installed Lively! system keeps an eye on a hale 78 year old painter’s daily activity for a daughter in Norway; the safety and personal tracking watch form factor is more than acceptable to Mom. Startup Honor and CareLinx are cited as connecting and vetting caregivers with older adults online. And some of this is catchup to what was too advanced at introduction. California long-term care provider Eskaton uses Care Innovations’ QuietCare; Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan LivingWell@ Home initially used WellAWARE, then acquirer Healthsense for telecare plus Honeywell HomMed (now Life Care Solutions) for telehealth. Their foundation systems date back to the early to mid 2000s. There are newer innovations for distance care (3rings in the UK) and home management (e.g. the Nest thermostat) which are seamless and less ‘fussy’ or intrusive in monitoring. Telehealth using tablets or web-based (Viterion, Vivify Health, GrandCare, Care Innovations’ Health Harmony, Panasonic On4Today), not the bulky boxes of years past, is also finding a place in medical practices’ Medicare chronic care management (US); more states demand of insurers that telemedicine and telehealth are reimbursed. There is more out there, getting more adopted.
The look forward may be the nebulous IoT (Internet of Things) with the corresponding dangers of hack, hack, hacking. But Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s AgeLab wraps it up en pointe in saying that it’s not just the physical; there needs to be a purpose in life for that older person as well. Technology, while not a fountain of youth, can make aging safer.