After all the angst generated by the Affordable Care Act, and all the punditry, noise, and debate that accompanied its rollout, you might conclude that there are no practical solutions to our healthcare challenges. But, of course, there are new answers and solutions and new, creative approaches to solving healthcare problems. You just have to look at innovative, private sector enterprises. And if you do, you might find one of the more innovative answers to eldercare right there in your old-fashioned television set. Just ask Kian Saneii, CEO of Independa.
But first, a little background. One of the more troubling and difficult areas of healthcare is the growing needs of the elderly, including both preventive care and the management of long-term, chronic illnesses. This has been a well-understood fact for quite some time. Saneii and the Independa team he began assembling in 2009 set out to find practical real-world solutions to these challenges. How they did this is an instructive case study in innovation, pragmatism and common sense.
The challenge that Saneii and Independa faced was grounded in four observations:
The U. S. population is aging . . . fast. The 65+ age group is the largest population in the United States, and this segment will double by 2040. Overwhelmingly – and hardly surprising – the elderly want to stay in their own home, in their own communities, as long as possible. Long-term care costs have increased dramatically. In California, for example, nearly two thirds of the elderly could not afford three months of nursing home care; over forty percent couldn’t afford one month. But, technology is converging in the growing area of telecare in such a way as to offer affordable, life-enhancing, and practical approaches to at-home care for at-risk populations.
“One of the things that struck me as we began thinking about this challenge,” Saneii says, “was this: There were (and still are) lots of point solutions in the area of telecare and eldercare, but no one was addressing the whole person. No one was looking to figure out how you put together multiple information streams, multiple data points and multiple inputs to monitor, treat and care for the individual. Point solutions were all aimed at individual symptoms, not individuals. The result was a partial, disconnected and incomplete system that neglected the human being who was being treated.
“For me, it just seemed that given twenty-first century technology, there had to be a better way to take care of my grandma living at home, and a better way to ensure she could continue living at home for as long as possible.”
At the heart of Independa’s strategy for eldercare is a simple assumption: The longer those who are aging or who have a chronic illness can stay at their current residence, be it their home or senior living community, the better. This is both a humane approach to healthcare delivery, and a key driver of reducing costs. Today, over 25.0% of the entire Medicare budget is spent in the last year of life, and 30.0% of those dollars are concentrated in the last month prior to death. And over 80.0% of that expenditure is in the hospital. The total costs – in dollars, in family stress, in unnecessary hospitalizations, in reduced quality of life – are staggering. A significant portion of these costs is driven by inefficient delivery and the absence of simple information flows, which in turn lead to missed medications, unnecessary hospitalizations and significant strain on care givers.
This is not where the elderly and chronically ill want to spend their time.
Saneii saw the opportunity to address the needs of the individual and the individual’s family. He recognized the positive upside of social engagement for the elderly as a means of ameliorating the costs and complexities that loneliness and isolation bring to the individual and their loved ones. And he saw telecare as an opportunity to improve the entire healthcare system, while dramatically increasing quality of life. So he and his team set out to create an experience, rather than a set of treatments, and a holistic approach to delivering care that takes into account the whole person.
“Although things are never as simple as we want,” Saneii says, “they might be simpler than we think. What we deliver is a total person-centric, not patient-centric, experience that reduces isolation and loneliness and improves quality of life for the elderly and chronically ill. In doing that, we also reduce family stress, family expense and wear and tear on family caregivers. The way to do that is to acquire high-quality information about the person’s status and make that available to family and caregivers: Things like medication and appointment reminders, activity monitoring, social engagement, and physical monitoring of health and wellness indicators.”
The Independa approach links the elderly person to their caregiver network, personal and professional, and provides the critical information flows necessary to preserve and extend independence, as well as to ease the day-to-day worries of the caregiver. The results of even the most basic information sharing can be surprising.
Consider the simple act of ensuring that medications are taken on schedule. One of the most frustrating challenges in caring for the elderly is prescription regimen. The AARP estimates that nearly 1 in 4 adults sixty-five or older will skip a medication or fail to refill a prescription, with serious consequences. For example, failure to follow the prescribed regimen and dosage for medication leads to a 50% increase in falls. The simple act of creating easy to use programs to ensure prescriptions are filled and taken on schedule reduces falls, reduces hospitalizations and doctor visits and prolongs independence.
“What we set out to do was a lot more than just develop a healthcare technology,” Saneii says. “We wanted to do something that would result in happier, more independent care recipients, and provide peace of mind for family caregivers. That’s really our measure of success.”
And now, enter the television set. Saneii and his team recognized that the elderly may very well be less likely to adopt new technologies, and prefer working with technology they already know. So, they partnered with an industry leader in commercial TVs to embed their solution directly into their TVs, a service seniors can access, no training needed, through the most recognizable of tools, their remote control. There it is: innovation in a television set.
As the U. S. population continues to age, and as healthcare becomes more available, there is an ever-increasing need to do things better, to provide smart approaches that both improve quality and reduce cost. Care of the elderly and chronically ill presents the most difficult challenges, but at the same time has the most potential upside for improving care. “In this world of elderly and chronically ill care delivery,” Saneii says, “just providing a technology, or a device, or a point solution is not enough. You have to think about the individual and that individual’s family. More than anything else we want to support independence, individual dignity and peace of mind. Why else would you be in this business?”
This article stresses the importance of seniors remaining at home to effectively receive better health care and reduce the cost. HomeFree Home Modification can help you to remain at home with more independence and safety. To receive a NO COST home assessment, please call us at 770-939-0747, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org