Telecare Soapbox: Turning back time with Fast Company and Care Innovations

Wondering what the GE-contributed part of Care Innovations has been up to? This short article in Fast Company online should have been far more informative. Instead, it skids into the journalistic equivalent of a brick wall. Its sole subject: QuietCare–originally developed by another company and acquired by GE. Its tone: recycled from 2006-7. And sadly filled with inaccuracies. It’s making Ed. Donna itching to rant, because she was quite close to QuietCare as it developed from 2006 into early 2009 as part of the founding company, Living Independently Group through the early days of the GE acquisition, and knows better.

The headline takes us back to circa 2005-6, when wince-worthy headlines were routine: How Intel and GE Will Monitor Your Grandma–For Her Own Good. Awful then, awful now. Let’s give Granny an ankle bracelet for her 80th! Granted, the writer is ‘contributing’ and the article is web only, so the standards are pretty loose, but despite the nice artwork and the nifty video, let’s discuss the many clinkers on offer here (highlighted and color coded!):

Kicker (=UK standfirst): ‘In-home monitors that detect behavioral patterns and predict medical emergencies’.

Lede: ‘Simple hardware combined with behavioral mathematics is helping seniors live free of nursing homes. Intel and General Electric’s joint healthcare product, QuietCare, uses infrared sensors, like those used for motion-sensing light switches, to monitor patients as they move throughout their home and alert medical staff to deviant behavior that suggests a medical threat.’

Off the cliff inaccuracy:

Analysis: Telecare as employed by QuietCare and similar devices tracks behavior as motion through rooms and records the data. Based on modeling, it can state that the behavior is off norm for the individual, or violates a hard (pre-set) guideline (e.g. wakeup time). But it is not Karnak the Magnificent–it cannot predict anything by itself. Even ‘suggest a medical threat’ is overly broad. The reporting can help to identify that there may be a problem, but detection is determined by human review of the information and alerts–in this case by assisted living staff, home care nurses. They then decide if intervention is needed. In non-emergency cases (trended data), they then must determine what the trends mean for the individual and further care. The word that is missing here: ‘may’.

Had any of the staff or I used this terminology in sales presentations, marketing materials or PR, we would have been drawn and quartered by our General Counsel. Deservedly. Even the CI spokesperson knows how to ‘say it safely’, although the references to ‘Grandma’ strike a loose, condescending note that shouldn’t be used with the press.

Plain inaccuracy: Care Innovations is a joint venture to market certain Intel and GE products. QuietCare is still called GE QuietCare. Intel Health Guide is still Intel Health Guide. Not much jointness about that.

Ouch: ‘Deviant behavior’. Oh, you mean ‘behavior deviating from the norm’. Not ‘nuts and sluts’. Wink

And the closing paragraph (sigh):

‘For now, QuietCare is being piloted in senior living residences, where the elderly live within the vicinity of health professionals. In the near future, GE and Intel are hopeful that it will be available in homes so that as the Baby Boomers retire they can retain some of the freedom that defined a generation.’

1) Pilots indicate new or in test products, or no-pay/low-pay/grant-funded models, and this doesn’t apply to QuietCare unless something has radically changed. In 2009, it had many more paying units in the field than Intel Health Guide.

2) When QuietCare was first marketed in 2004-5, one of its benefits was to keep seniors in the home as an alternative to assisted living facilities (AL) and this continued through 2007. By 2009, the majority of sales were to AL, some to home care and hospice, but retaining a small group (in the very low hundreds) of private users both here and a few in the UK.

3) And ‘baby boomers…retaining freedom’ through QuietCare so they can stay safely at home, is a final and again condescending note. Since the oldest boomers are turning 65 this year, and QuietCare’s core usage was and is 75+…by the time the boomers get there the platforms will be mobile at least, passive and/or something we can’t conceive of yet. Ah, this ‘granny’ and cliche-loaded closing could only be written by what appears (from his photo) to be a member of Gen Y. And an educator!

The most curious thing, which may be the only nugget of real news here, is the mention that ‘QuietCare does not require FDA approval.’ That is absolutely true, but it is registered (and was in 2008).

No, it’s not critical press–and note I am not criticizing QuietCare the product in the least. But articles like this, especially in ‘name brand’ media, do not help QuietCare’s–or telecare’s–credibility with buyers, especially when heavily larded with Care Innovations/GE supplied materials. The result of the outreach to this particular writer must surely have been disappointing. It’s not one for the presentation deck clippings, surely.

[Ed. Donna was VP Marketing for Living Independently Group/QuietCare Systems 2006-9, and well knows that you can’t control a writer’s finished product. But you try your best to help them get it right, if they’ll let you!]

Categories: Soapbox.