According to Census Bureau data, the number of Americans aged 65 and up has increased by a third in the last decade, outpacing all other age groups. Kurt Waltenbaugh, CEO of Minneapolis-based health care analytics company Carrot Health claims, “The entire senior care sector is going through something of an innovation renaissance with a host of new technologies and platforms coming to the market.”
New Technologies To Help Senior Citizens
The growing importance of “the home” in the future of senior care is a common theme that keeps coming up in nearly every healthcare conversation. As business models shift away from the all-too-common fee-for-service model and toward for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, private health plans will naturally have financial incentives to keep seniors under their care in their homes longer, living better and fuller lives. The way to do this effectively, at scale and with lower costs, is through technology.
Innovation#1: Hero digital pill dispenser
- Hero ensures that a senior’s medication is dispensed on time each day. This senior-friendly technology can store up to 10 different pills of various shapes and sizes and customize them to fit any medication schedule.
- Depending on the pill size, Hero can store up to a 90-day supply of medication. The device syncs with the Hero app, which keeps track of pill doses and usage. The downside is that the dispenser does not work with gummies, half pills, or sticky dissoluble pills due to the risk of contamination.
- For some people, pillboxes or PillPack are excellent options. However, they aren’t the best options for people who have trouble remembering to take their medications or have a medication regimen that frequently changes. Hero helps those who may require (or desire) a little extra help with their medication management.
- In case one frequently leaves the house for work or travels, the Future Dose feature in Hero allows one to pre-dispense the pills you’ll need. Hero’s Vacation Mode lets you plan your trip ahead of time, dispense the pills you’ll need ahead of time, and store them in their original containers for travel. The app also reminds you to take your medication and tracks your adherence data to stay on track no matter where you are.
Relevance to Senior Citizens
- One study found that nearly 60% of US seniors do not take their medications as prescribed. Many factors influence medical adherence, including culture, personal beliefs, and medication side effects. It’s made even more difficult by aging issues like mobility and memory problems, poor eyesight, and a general inability to understand instructions.
- As the number of scripts, doctors, and prescription lengths grows, proper adherence suffers even more. 10%of hospital admissions are due to failure to follow prescription instructions. Among seniors, the rate is even higher. It’s no surprise that adherence is a problem for over 40% of seniors who regularly take at least five different medications.
- Compared to hiring in-home care, the machine’s advantage is that you’ll save a lot of money, provide peace of mind for caregivers and family members, improve script adherence, and push notifications of missed doses as soon as possible.
Innovation#2: Toi Labs (TrueLoo)
- According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, fecal incontinence (FI) affects 17 million people in the United States. Unfortunately, it frequently goes unnoticed. It is also the second most common reason for seniors to choose assisted living or long-term care. Although fecal incontinence is common, it can be embarrassing or upsetting to talk about.
- Vik Kashyap, founder and CEO of Toi Labs, wants to turn the toilet into a valuable source of health data. Kashyap created the TrueLoo toilet seat after realizing that what is flushed away can actually indicate potential health problems.
- TrueLoo has sensors that can determine who the user is and can be installed on any toilet. It then examines the excreta in the toilet bowl to determine their size, color, consistency, frequency, and shape.
- The data is given to senior living managers to keep track of their residents’ health. It’s not a particularly pleasant dinner table conversation. Still, the information revealed, such as dehydration, urinary tract infections, and diseases like Clostridium difficile (also known as C. diff) and norovirus, which are major concerns among seniors and frequently result in hospitalization, can be detected early.
Relevance to Senior Citizens
- In individuals 65 years of age or older in the community, the prevalence of constipation is 26% for women and 16% for men. This rate increases to 34% for women and 26% for men in those 84 years of age and older. For long-term care residents, the prevalence is as high as 80%.
- With this technological innovation, the idea is that by catching these issues early on, they can be addressed, avoiding hospitalizations and other more serious health issues, such as the spread of infectious diseases among senior living communities.
- In the U.S., Carlton Senior Living uses the TrueLoo in four of their communities in northern California, with 70 units installed. Following the completion of a clinical study with the senior living community, Kashyap says it will soon be made available to the public. The price has yet to be determined, but senior-living operators will almost certainly pay a monthly fee.