The Apple Watch, ECG and fall detection–a trend too far?

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/apple-watch-series-4-elektrokardiogram.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]Mid-September’s Apple Fans kvelled about the Apple Watch Series 4 debut. Much was made in the health tech press of Apple’s rapid FDA clearance and the symbolism of their further moves into medical devices with the Series 4 addition of a built-in atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG, along with fall detection via the new accelerometer and gyroscope.

This latter feature is significant to our Readers, but judging from Apple’s marketing and the press, hardly an appealing Unique Selling Proposition to the Apple FanBoys’n’Girls who tend to be about 35 or wannabe. The website touts the ECG as a performance feature, a ‘guardian and guru’ topping all the activity, working out, and kickboxing you’re doing. It positions the fall detection and Emergency SOS in the context of safety during or after hard working out or an accident. It then calls 911 (cellular), notifies your emergency contacts, sends your current location, and displays your Medical ID badge on the screen for emergency personnel, which may not endear its users to fire and police departments. 

Laurie Orlov in her latest Age In Place Tech article points out the disconnect between the fall risk population of those aged 70+ and the disabled versus the actual propensity (and fisc) to buy an Apple Gizmo at $400+. PewInternet’s survey found that 46 percent of those over 65 actually own a smartphone, though this Editor believes that 1) much less than 50 percent are Apple and 2) most smartphone features beyond the basic remain a mystery to many. (Where store helpers, children, and grandchildren come in!)

Selling to older adults is obviously not the way that Apple is going, but there may be a subset of ‘young affluent old’ who want to sport an Apple Watch and also cover themselves for their cardiac or fall risk. (Or have children who buy it.) This is likely a sliver of a subset of the mobile PERS market, which is surprisingly small–only 20 percent of the total PERS market. But monitoring centers–doubtful, despite it being lucrative for GreatCall.

The dilemma of design for older people

Is the best design for older people and the disabled not specifically designed for them, but an adaptation of basic good design? Laurie Orlov in one of her apt Aging In Place Technology Watch articles questions the market viability of all those specially designed products we’ve seen since, say 2008. We recall ‘smart homes’, senior desktop computers, simplified phones and the robot caregivers which never seem to get past the prototype stage [TTA 25 July 14]. Her POV is that in most cases ‘designing for all ages is feasible today’ except for healthcare–durable medical equipment (DME) and healthcare delivery (and,this Editor would add, monitoring). One of her commenters points out that not everything can be designed ‘universally’, linking to this excellent article from Smashing on guidelines for designing tech to be used by those over 50. The section on blue color perception was especially interesting, as blue is healthcare’s #1 color. I would also point out that design which avoids stigma (as in ‘it screams OLD’) and has good aesthetics also wins.

Is AARP admitting that ‘tech designed for seniors’ is not a winning notion, as this May’s Life@50+ National Event in Miami is likely the last national event they sponsor? And it would be interesting to go back to the previous ‘Live Pitches’ to see how they are doing. Ms Orlov profiles this year’s five.