Technology for Aging in Place, 2017 edition preview

Industry analyst Laurie Orlov previews her annual review of ‘Technology for Aging In Place’ on LinkedIn with six insights into the changes roiling health tech in the US. We’ll start with a favorite point–terminology–and summarize/review each (in bold), not necessarily in order.

“Health Tech” replaces “Digital Health,” begins acknowledging aging. This started well before Brian Dolan’s acknowledgment in Mobihealthnews, as what was ‘digital health’ anyway? This Editor doesn’t relate it to a shift in investment money, more to the 2016 realization by companies and investors that care continuity, meaningful clinician workflow, access to key information, and predictive analytics were a lot more important–and fundable–than trying to figure out how to handle Data Generated by Gadgets.

Niche hardware will fade away – long live software and training. Purpose-built ‘senior tablets’ will likely fade away. The exception will be specialized applications in remote patient monitoring (RPM) for vital signs and in many cases, video, that require adaptation and physical security of standard tablets. These have device connectivity, HIPAA, and FDA (Class I/II) concerns. Other than those, assistive and telehealth apps on tablets, phablets and smartphones with ever-larger screens are enough to manage most needs. An impediment: cost (when will Medicare start assisting with payments for these?), two-year life, dependence on vision, and their occasionally befuddling ways.

Voice-first interfaces will dominate apps and devices. “Instead we will be experimenting with personal assistants or AI-enabled voice first technologies (Siri, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Cortana) which can act as mini service provider interfaces – find an appointment, a ride, song, a restaurant, a hotel, an airplane seat.” In this Editor’s estimation, a Bridge Too Far for this year, maybe 2018. Considerations are cost, intrusiveness, and accuracy in interpreting voice commands. A strong whiff of the Over-Hyped pervades.

Internet of Things (IoT) replaces sensor-based categories. Sensors are part of IoT, so there’s not much of a distinction here, and this falls into ‘home controls’ which may be out of the box or require custom installation. Adoption again runs into the roadblocks of cost and intrusiveness with older people who may be quite reluctant to take on both. And of course there is the security concern, as many of these devices are insecure, eminently hackable, and has been well documented as such.

Tech-enabled home care pressures traditional homecare providers – or does it? ‘What exactly is tech-enabled care? And what will it be in the future?’ Agreed that there will be a lot of thinking in home care about what $200 million in investment in this area actually means. Is this being driven by compliance, or by uncertainty around what Medicare and state Medicaid will pay for in future?

Robotics and virtual reality will continue — as experiments. Sadly, yes, as widespread adoption means investment, and it’s not there on the senior housing level where there are other issues bubbling, such as real estate and resident safety. There are also liability issues around assistance robotics that have not yet been worked out. Exoskeletons–an assistance method this Editor has wanted to see for several years for older adults and the disabled–seems to be stalled at the functionality/expense/weight level.

Study release TBD

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