New Technologies Improve Health Delivery for Elder Population

COVID-19 solidified telemedicine as a mainstream healthcare option and launched innovation in remote monitoring devices. One of the most vulnerable groups, the elder population, are likely to benefit the most from these technologies, which combine remote monitoring devices with apps and wearables to help improve physical and mental health.

 

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Image credit: Revlis Biotech

The COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on elder care in the US. With medical offices closed for all but the most dire health emergencies, doctors scrambled to provide care for a segment of the population that typically has higher rates of chronic illness, less mobility, and fewer social interactions.

Perhaps the greatest positive change, accelerated by insurance reimbursement, has been the use of telehealth to connect patients to medical professionals. Even after the pandemic subsides, the use of audio and video conferencing to contact patients is likely to remain. Couple that with growth in remote monitoring devices powered by IoT, and the healthcare industry is ripe for a technology boom. Here are some areas where the impact of IoT continues to grow.

Apps and Wearables

In most cases, remote healthcare monitoring isn’t possible without a wearable device. Health tracking devices such as those from Fitbit, Garmin, and Samsung can monitor temperature, heart rate, and weight. Increased adoption has led to other devices that allow people to consistently track chronic health issues, such as blood pressure, glucose levels, or lung capacity.

VivaLNK, based in Cambell, CA, has developed several wearable devices used to assess cardiovascular and lung functionality, including one that can capture electrocardiogram (ECG) and heart rate data during a six-minute walk test. The company also has wearable devices that monitor temperature and oxygen levels, sensor data kits for integration into mobile and cloud-based applications, and hosted cloud services.

Wearables Tap Machine Learning, Imaging

Another wearable that emerged from the battle against COVID-19 is FeverGuard. Developed by  Solos Health Analytics, FeverGuard is a low-cost wearable thermometer that fits on the upper arm. It uses machine learning that understands the difference between core and near-axillary temperature readings. FeverGuard learns an individual’s normal, then uses continuous data flow to find anomalies.

With fever being a symptom in 78 percent of COVID-19 patients, having an early warning system can help senior living facilities detect an outbreak. Anyone wearing a FeverGuard receives an alert through its app at the first sign of a fever. FeverGuard can be configured to notify administrators, caregivers, and family members via text and email.

Diagram of FeverGuard platform

Image credit: FeverGuard

While specialized devices are emerging, researchers at the University of Washington are developing a method of measuring a person’s pulse and respiration rate using real-time video from a smartphone camera. It’s still under development, but the system will use machine learning to create a personalized physiological model for each individual and assess changes in blood flow—taking into account skin tone, lighting, and other factors—to measure pulse and respiration rates.

Remote Healthcare Monitoring

The use of devices that enable remote monitoring has skyrocketed. One survey found that nearly 80 percent of healthcare providers believe that the use of remote patient monitoring will match or exceed in-patient monitoring in the next five years.

Taiwan-based Revlis Biotech has developed Cmate, which integrates artificial intelligence in a personal ECG device. The device uses an Intel® Quark™ SE Microcontroller C1000, enabling it to capture and process large amounts of data quickly. 

Users measure heart activity from four points on the body, and the results are uploaded to a cloud-based management platform via Bluetooth. The AI algorithms learn personal variations in heart activity and flag abnormalities for medical professionals, who use the data to triage patients and suggest next steps. Results and reports are sent to the user’s corresponding mobile app. Cmate has been integrated with Tunstall’s Integrated Care Platform and is an Intel® IoT Market Ready Solution.

Combating Anxiety

Mental health apps and chatbots have emerged to help seniors manage anxiety and medications between therapy sessions. If the individual experiences a more severe health concern, apps such as Amazon’s Alexa Care Hub can notify an emergency contact if needed.

The biggest hindrance to adoption of new solutions is the digital divide across generations. Older individuals often have limited access to technology, a harder time navigating it, and less motivation to learn it. Companies that create easy-to-use interfaces can reach an untapped market in the elder healthcare sector.

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