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Dec 3, 2018 - Aging in Place Forum Recap
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by Christine Giraud

On December 3rd, the Medical Development Group (MDG Boston) hosted a forum at Regis College in Weston to review opportunities for medical devices to assist the elderly and the physicians and caregivers that serve them.

The cost of care to treat chronic and age-related illnesses in this demographic is increasing fast, and it is hoped that devices can improve care and lower costs.
 
The Forum was moderated by John Libertino, MD, Executive VP of Development and Head of the Urology Department at Emerson Hospital as well as a member of the MDG Boston Advisory Board.

Dr. Allan "Chip" Teel, a geriatrician from Full Circle America in Maine, gave the audience a snapshot of the seniors he serves:
  • They resist help because they believe it signifies a loss of independence.
  • They have low expectations for quality of life.
  • They experience ageism.
  • They are proud.
  • They have a lot of rage that they can't do what they used to do.
  • They are outliving their savings. The average yearly fixed income is $18,500.
  • They have some technophobia but not as much as we assume.
Dr. Teel stressed that the fear of a loss of independence means we should not stress limitations but instead treat the elderly like partners in their care. Doctors are an important part of this. According to Dr. Teel, they often have more influence over older folks than kids.

He believes making technology accessible can be simple. Things like putting technology in the TV area increases usage. Also, when we introduce them to technology, we should use familiar platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) so they are included in mainstream society.

According to Stuart Patterson, CEO and co-founder of LifePod Solutions Inc, in our society caregiving usually falls to eldest daughters.

The job is often 4.6 years of work with no training and no pay. They usually don't know where to start.

LifePod is an online system that uses smart speakers to help caregivers and physicians communicate with their elders and vice versa. One of the ways it is helpful is with reminders to take medications, drink water, and even move.

One audience member asked if the platform is multilingual. Patterson says they are working on that. That will be important as more than 20 percent of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home and more than one in ten speak Spanish, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Ernie Ianace, EVP of Sales and Marketing at Vital Tech, says eighty percent of seniors want to stay home. He finds that they're usually eager to adopt technology but there are impediments:
  • Current fitness trackers are often not designed for seniors.
  • They are often unaffordable.
  • The technology is usually not supported by common platforms.
  • The programs require upgrades which often loses senior users.
  • The screens and text are often too small.
  • Sensitive touch technology is tough for people with poor motion control.
  • Trackers often look industrial and are stigmatized.
   
Because the hardware space is so fragmented, Vital Tech tries to unite care by providing real time, continuous data on the patient's vitals and biometrics and advanced analytics for patients, caregivers and clinicians. That data rests on an easy to access HIPAA compliant cloud.

Craig Noonan, CEO of Wellspring Benefits Group, spoke about how our healthcare system works under an innovation model, but chronic condition management is really what's most needed. The challenges for doctors are expanding responsibilities and big data. Clinicians want to leverage technology and deliver better, faster, cheaper care but there must be useful data triage, otherwise it's useless.
 
A big concern raised by the audience was accessing a patient's health care records from different institutions. One audience member spoke about how he had healthcare records in California that his doctor here couldn't see. The speakers recognized that it has to be the patient or caregivers' job to gather those records and that's a problem. Database integration is generally complicated and, according to Ianace, often these big players don't want to speak to each other.
 
The FDA has finalized its guidance on how mobile applications and regulated mobile medical devices are to be treated. This new clarity could encourage device and software designers to standardize, making their products easier to access. It might bring us closer to the goal of transforming medicare into "aging-in-place care."
 
MDG Boston is the premier MedTech
community advancing healthcare by enabling
diverse professionals to grow through expert forums, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.
 
Monthly forums are held in the Boston area on a variety
of topics related to the science and technology of healthcare.  More information can be found at 

 
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