As I travel the world meeting with public health officials, healthcare executives and providers, a common theme is the concern about aging populations and the growing incidence of chronic disease. This, coupled with the skyrocketing cost of care for aging seniors, has become top of mind for government leaders and tax-paying citizens in most countries of the developed world.
However, the real burden and angst about this is far more personal. Today’s families are all too often separated by great distances. It’s only natural that we worry about the well being of aging parents or other loved ones and often feel helpless in our situation. Fortunately, technology is now stepping in to relieve some of our anxiety.
A recent example of this was profiled on our new on-line video series, Health Tech Today. I was joined in the studio by Chris Otto, CEO of Halo Monitoring. Chris was prompted to start his company from a personal need in his own family. His mother was looking for a better way to keep tabs on her frail elderly mother who lived many miles away. Not finding the solution they were looking for, Chris set out to develop one. The result is the MyHalo monitor.
As demonstrated on our program, this wearable device can track both pulse and body temperature. It also has an accelerometer and the necessary algorithms to accurately detect when a person has taken a fall or is at growing risk for falling. Information collected by the wearable device is transmitted to a central hub in the home. The hub is connected through the Internet or dail-up phone line to a central monitoring center. When an adverse event occurs, it is reported both to the central monitoring center so help can be summoned and to family members who subscribe to the service. Notifications can be received via phone, e-mail, or SMS text message. Family members can also sign on to a secure web site where they can receive regular reports on their loved one’s activity and well being. According to Chris Otto, the MyHalo monitoring service costs about $50 a month, about what many people pay for cell phone or cable television. For peace of mind, it seems to me that’s a small price to pay.
This is but one example of a growing list of health devices and services that are becoming available to aid people in their homes. Many of these devices, both those for monitoring chronic disease issues as well as those for tracking personal health and well being, can be connected to web platforms and personal heath record solutions such as Microsoft HealthVault. In fact, the market for these kinds of solutions is expanding so fast that giant electronics retailers such as Best Buy are now featuring personal health and well being devices in stores around the country. Perhaps one of these is a great Christmas gift for someone you know.
Technology certainly can’t solve all of the problems associated with growing old or dealing with infirmities, but it will play a very important role in helping people maintain a better quality of life while staying longer in their own homes. And that is something I suspect most of us will welcome.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft