Philips Lifeline introduces a mPERS app

click to enlargePhilips Lifeline has debuted in the US an unbranded mPERS-like app which allows the user from a smartphone (iPhone/Android only) to access the Philips Lifeline call center. The app is free but the service to voice connect to their call center, according to their customer center, is a (bargain compared to standard PERS) $13.95. The phone’s GPS geo-locates the person in need. The fact that the introduction is in the ‘dog days of August’ is one indicator that they are readying well ahead of the late fall (autumn) bump in demand. (Both this Editor and Mobihealthnews see a back and fill for the much-touted GoSafe introduction which 18 months later is still not in market.)

But walk with your Editor through this scenario:

  • Smartphone-equipped older person takes a fall, has an accident or is a crime victim
  • Despite the fact that all smartphones have accelerometers, the app does not tie in to this data, undoubtedly because the algorithms would be quite complex in differentiating a fall from everyday use or a phone drop
  • Older person has to have the presence of mind to

1) dig out the phone wherever it is
2) hope it works
3) swipe/tap to light up the screen (most auto dim) and punch in their PIN
4) shake it to get into the proper view
5) hunt for the little button with the app, find it and
6) press to activate it

If your Editor were down on the ground hurt, don’t ask me to find anything in my handbag right away. And if I were stunned, I’d have trouble seeing, swiping, PIN-ning, swiping some more and finding the magic button.

Sounds like a ‘better than nothing’ for families and a ‘cash cow’ product for Philips. This Editor does see some applicability for younger seniors or the disabled who don’t want the stigma of a pendant and the flexibility of mobile…but one that may be false assurance if all on its own, or when the phone is nowhere nearby.

And accelerometers don’t always work. The July death of a Massachusetts wheelchair-bound woman, who was wearing Lifeline with AutoAlert when she fell in the bathroom, is being attributed by the family to the system failing. The standard pendant had worked in previous incidents where the woman pushed the button. The accelerometer did not trigger a call in the fatal fall and the button was never pushed. The family claims they were never told that the accelerometer may not work in all falls. Philips claims performance in 95 percent of falls, and recommends that the button should also be pushed if the person is able. Investigation ongoing, but this Editor doubts this is a good Labor Day weekend at Philips Lifeline’s HQ near Boston. WCVB-TV Boston  Hat tips on both items to reader and fellow opinionator Laurie Orlov of Aging In Place Technology Watch

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