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Doctors can now call Uber for patients, ditching taxi vouchers

Seniors

The ride-hailing company Thursday announced the launch of Uber Health, a desktop platform for healthcare providers that allows doctors to provide rides for patients who might otherwise miss their appointments because they can’t get to them.

Uber Health has been in testing since July with around 100 physicians and hospitals. Rival Lyft also has been working with healthcare providers over the past few years. Both tech startups have been looking for ways to grow their business with companies.

The benefits to doctors and hospitals of using ride-hailing apps — which replace taxis and medical shuttles, but not ambulances  — include on-demand scheduling, destination tracking, and lower costs, said one doctor who had tried Uber’s service.

Nationally, missed appointments cost healthcare providers $150 billion a year, with no-show rates as high as 30%, according to SCI Solutions, which provides IT services to the healthcare industry.

“In the past, we used taxis, but you had to hand out a voucher in person, you had no idea where the person might be going and it cost 20% to 40% more,” says Chris Needham, director of Member Health and Wellness at Renown Health, which serves urban and rural patients in northern Nevada and has been testing Uber Health since October.

Needham says hospital staff assesses which patients are at risk of missing critical appointments and provides them with pick-up and drop-off rides at the hospital’s expense.

Another benefit of the service is helping healthcare providers meet patient care goals that can factor into how a facility scores with regulators.

Critically, Uber says it’s worked with Clearwater Compliance to ensure Uber Health is compliant with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) standards.

More than 100 healthcare organizations have been using Uber Health as part of its beta program, including Blood Centers of the Pacific, Georgetown Home Care, LifeBridge Health, and MedStar Health. The dashboard and API are now available publicly.

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Microsoft’s new Soundscape iOS app is designed to help the visually impaired navigate cities

 

Microsoft has a new app out today called Soundscape that uses 3D audio technology to help map out landmarks and points of interest through audio cues.

Soundscape empowers more people to explore the world around them through a 3D audio experience. The app enriches your perception of surroundings as you walk, helping you get where you want to go. Rushing between classes, going for coffee with a friend or touring a new city with the family are all common experiences that could be more rewarding and cause less anxiety for nearly 300 million people with sight loss worldwide.

Users can set audio beacons at specific destinations and places, and the app will provide 3D audio cues (which can be perceived directionally) to help improve their “ambient awareness” as they travel there. Users will then be able to incorporate that information from the Soundscape as they build a mental image of what’s around them.

The Soundscape app can also call out points of interest, roads, and intersections that you pass, along with more specific settings for describing a user’s current location and direction, or what’s coming up ahead of them. For example, it can describe different shops and street names as you walk by, something that other navigation techniques used by people with visual impairments can’t always help with.

If a user isn’t sure where they are or which way to travel, they can hold the phone flat in their hand with the top edge facing the direction they want to go and then use the buttons at the bottom of the screen to locate nearby landmarks and navigate.

The app is designed to be used in tandem with more traditional means of navigation, not replace them. As Erin Lauridsen, the access technology director at LightHouse for the Blind explains, “Obstacle avoidance is not the problem, we have a dog, a cane and our blindness skills for that. The gap is knowing where things are and being able to decide what’s of interest.”

Microsoft Soundscape can be downloaded here.

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Exciting Times for Telehealth

Online medical diagnosis and treatment

Online medical diagnosis and treatment

2017 brought some exciting developments in the telehealth space. 2016’s 21st Century Cures Act has helped to streamline regulations around the adoption of digital health technologies, and in response the FDA has established a new digital health unit to focus on areas such as telemedicine, mobile apps, wearable devices, clinical algorithms (aka software-as-a-medical-device), and health information technology.

As a result of its new focus on streamlining, the FDA has:

  • Issued final guidance on the use of real-world evidence for medical product development and post-market study requirements
  • Announced the pilot of its premarket certification program, called Pre-Cert, that focuses on streamlining the approval process of lower-risk digital health tools

These changes help to reduce the time and cost of market entry for companies in the digital health space, also allowing existing players to leverage their consumer wellness products into the medical field. This means that the data generated by wearable devices will be increasingly used for medical purposes, and other technologies—such as the smart home and smart speakers—may also be able to pull double duty in both the consumer and medical space.  Adoption of telehealth solutions by payers, providers, and consumers is also likely to be accelerated due to the FDA’s digital health initiatives.

As we head into 2018, we should expect to see:

  • Increased focus on clinical applications built on consumer wearable platforms, such as the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear
  • Clinical algorithms incorporating natural language processing and machine vision technology
  • Telehealth solutions including 4K or 5K high-resolution video, and multi-user connections for consulting with multiple medical professionals at once
  • An increasing number of telehealth solutions focused on emerging technology areas, such as the smart home space, smart speakers with personal assistants, virtual reality, and wearable exoskeletons
  • New medical and health devices offering standalone cellular connectivity, brought about the availability of low-cost LTE solutions such as LTE-M and NB-IoT and the high reliability of next-gen mobile networks
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3 Easy Home Security Upgrades for Older Adults

Seniors Home Security

Outdated technology and unreliable hardware have made some traditional home security setups tough to live with, especially for older adults. Inconvenient wall-mounted control panels can be difficult to access in a hurry if you have limited mobility, and many old-style systems feature small controls and clumsy interfaces that can be especially frustrating for arthritic hands.

Thankfully, the recent wave of smart home innovations (including those from your local cable company) has brought many new products and technologies to the marketplace that make it easier than ever to secure your home. Here are some of the best upgrades to make your home safer, and an all-around better place to live.

1. Video Doorbells
Home security starts at the front porch, and one of the best smart gadgets on the market is a simple upgrade to a common household feature: the doorbell. Products like the Skybell WiFi Video Doorbell and the August Doorbell Camera can provide an excellent first line of defense to your home that is surprisingly easy to use and install.
Simply remove the old doorbell button, attach a few small wires and connect the unit to your home’s Wi-Fi. This simple 10-minute project will provide you with a motion-detecting video feed of visitors and deliveries, all visible via a mobile app on your phone.

With this system in place, seniors can easily screen visitors without ever having to make their way to the door — which means being able to dismiss solicitors through smartphonesion, smart phone or tablet, without even getting up.

2. Smart Garage Door Systems
Upgrading your garage door opener is probably the last thing you think of when you contemplate home security, but seniors may find today’s smart garage sensors to be a huge help in keeping their homes safe.
Systems like MyQ from Chamberlain and other similar products connect a few simple sensors in the garage to a smart home hub, giving users wireless control over their garage doors from inside their home, or even from afar. The app makes it simple to close a forgotten open door while you’re lying in bed or away visiting family. Many cases of theft are due to something as simple a homeowner leaving a garage door open overnight, and this simple tool can help prevent that from happening.

3. Smart Sensors and Cameras

Older adults looking for more traditional ways of securing their homes may be happy to learn that the clunky security products of the past have been replaced with smarter, more reliable solutions that are much easier to install. Visit your local hardware store or talk to your internet service provider or cable company, and you’ll discover some excellent home security kits that operate with battery-powered sensors instead of wires.
You can place these cameras and sensors throughout your home in a matter of minutes, or have the installation done for you by a professional. Use the products in conjunction with a wireless wall panel, or even as part of an all-inclusive smart home hub that you can control through a mobile app on your phone.

These systems are effective on their own, but they’re especially useful when you throw a few indoor and outdoor smart cameras into the mix. Outdoor cameras can give you an early alert to unexpected visitors (whether you’re at home or away), and indoor cameras can provide a valuable safety net of additional security and comfort, as many include temperature and air quality sensors, too.

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How the Internet of Things will enable seniors to stay in their homes longer

Ninety percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. Livability can be optimized through the incorporation of universal design principles. One-third of American households are home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older.

Senior Living

Cheerful senior couple making faces and having fun while taking a selfie with smart phone.

Technology can be an enabler for aging in place. There are four categories of technology that may help seniors stay in their home longer: Communication and Engagement, Health and Wellness, Learning and Contribution, and Safety and Security.

Emerging sensor and connectivity technology has made possible the development of a new generation of monitoring systems that don’t require the person being monitored (the resident) to wear a device. Instead, networks of sensors within the home connect to a cloud-based algorithm that learns the daily living patterns of the resident. The algorithm recognizes if there is a deviation that may require sending an alert to a smart phone or social media app so someone can take action, or at least pay closer attention.

The behavior patterns that Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring systems are able to detect and learn include these activities:

  • location of the resident within the home
  • light sources being used
  • bed time and awakening time
  • television watching
  • cooking
  • bathroom usage
  • leaving the home and returning
  • heating or air conditioning temperature and adjustments

As you can see, all of these depend on either motion or an electric appliance or source being utilized, which pretty much encapsulates everyone’s home life. Surely anything that can reduce the astronomical number of human caregivers that would be needed over the next few decades to care for the exploding elderly demographic is welcome.

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Studies Reveal Adopting Online Technology Links to Better Health Situations for Seniors

Smart Home Automation

Learning, embracing and adopting a new technology is, for some seniors, an extremely daunting task. But logging onto Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts or perusing the internet can provide seniors with worthwhile health benefits. Many studies including a  study published in the issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, seniors who routinely use online technology engage in more cancer-preventive behaviors than their peers. The study shows that aging adults who utilize the internet are more likely to be active and physically fit, eat a well-balanced diet, and are less likely to smoke than their peers who utilize the internet less often. These findings led the team to conclude that increased utilization of modern technology directly correlates to seniors? overall health.

To reach this conclusion, researchers from University College London examined data from the English Longitudinal Study on Aging, which collected participant information every two years for nearly a decade. Approximately 6,000 subjects age 50 and older participated. Each participant was asked to detail his or her habits for a host of daily activities which included smoking, physical activity, health checkups, routine screenings and internet usage. The results led researchers to theorize that internet aficionados are more aware of their health. 73% of Internet-savvy seniors stated they had received preventive screenings for both color and breast cancer compared to 51% of non-internet users. The study also showed that senior internet users are 50% more active and less likely to smoke.

Age, ethnicity, education and socioeconomic status also played into these findings, revealing a potential inequality to cancer outcomes among those who shun this technology. While the notion that embracing technology might have the ability to improve health status, further study on this potential correlation is warranted.

At Smaart House, we understand the importance of utilizing new technologies and what it can do to benefit the health of a loved one. We make technology easy to adapt and understand and provide the support seniors need to age in their own homes.

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How I got my grandmother hooked to Audible

Home Automation

Amazon Alexa

First, Evelyn Moore tried to read books with a magnifying glass. Then, she turned to a tablet to make the words on her e-books larger. Eventually, she couldn’t even see that. The 95-year-old was losing her sight, and with it, one of her favorite hobbies.

“She wasn’t able to read anymore, and that was a big loss,” said her son James Moore.

Last year, the younger Moore had an idea: What if he could get his mom a device that could read books to her without the need to navigate a control screen that she had a hard time seeing?

That device turned out to be the Amazon Echo, an internet-connected smart speaker that responds to voice commands. James Moore figured that he could buy his mother audiobooks from Audible, then teach her to use voice prompts to have the Echo play the audiobook.

At first, Evelyn Moore was a little wary.

“It took a little while to convince her of it,” James Moore said. “Her thought was that we’re going to have wires everywhere.”

Eventually, she agreed to try it. It’s been nearly a year, and she’s listened to 178 books.

Smart home gadgets like the Amazon Echo can provide an extra layer of comfort and protection for older adults who want to stay in their own homes as they age. They can also give caregivers or adult children like Jim Godek a means to monitor them, especially if they don’t live close to one another.

Evelyn Moore isn’t alone. Roughly 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current home for the next five to 10 years, according to a survey taken by the AARP in 2012. But change — in the form of new technology — can be scary and intimidating. How do you tell your parents you want them to use a smart home device to help them live independently?

“Starting any kind of conversation with the elderly can be tricky,” said Barbara McVickers, an elder care expert, and author. “Mom and Dad sometimes don’t want to talk about this. They see this as a role reversal. They still want to be in charge. It becomes a tug-of-war with the parents wanting to be autonomous and the child caring about the well-being of their parents.”

Here are some tips on how to start a conversation with your parents about upgrading to smart home tech for their benefit — and yours:

  • Include them in the conversation instead of telling them what to do. “If we just go blaring in there as adult children, they’re going to really dig their heels in,” McVickers said. Listen to their own concerns, and share your own, too.
  • Call a family meeting to talk about how you want to help your parents. Bring in your siblings or other family members who provide care for your parents so “everyone is deciding together what is best for mom and dad,” McVickers said. Consider bringing in a third party your parent’s trust so they can provide some perspective, too, such as their physician, insurance agent or a family friend.
  • Provide a real-life example of how a gadget could help. Do you have a friend whose parents’ home got broken into who could have benefited from a security system? Use stories like that to illustrate the need to add some devices to their homes. And discuss how a device could help make your life easier, especially if you are the primary caregiver. McVickers suggests that you make a statement like this: “I’m doing this out of love and safety, but we need to know how we can help you age the way you wish.”
  • If your parents are on board with adding a smart home gadget to their routine, pick something that’s simple and requires little interaction. New technology is intimidating, and something too difficult to learn can turn off aging parents. For your parents to successfully make a new device a part of their lives, “it almost has to work flawlessly without their interaction,” McVickers said. (Check out these smart home devices that are easier to use.)
  • Install new devices for your parents and write down step-by-step instructions for how to use them. “If Mom and Dad can’t use it, it’s not helpful at all,” McVickers said.
  • Make sure your parents have a reliable internet connection and Wi-Fi network if the devices you choose rely on Wi-Fi. Here are some Wi-Fi systems that will help make sure your parents and their devices stay online.
  • Reevaluate how your parents are doing with the new device.Check in regularly to see if the device is helping them. Stay on top of your parents’ needs since they could change and require new and different technology.
  • Know when to accept defeat. Your parents might be adamant against changes to their routine. “There’s a certain point you can’t do anything else,” McVickers said. “They’re adults. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything in place.”For Evelyn Moore, the introduction of the Amazon Echo into her home has had a huge impact, according to her son.”She has made the comment that she can look forward to something brand new every day when she gets up,” he said.

    They’ve added a smart thermostat to Evelyn Moore’s home that she can voice-control, too. But all of the additions have to be on her terms.

    “It’s still her life,” James Moore said. “I can have all the input I want, but it’s her choice.”

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Your Health is now a number; 42%, $2500?

Smart Home Automation

According to a recent article in the New York Times,  our health status and potential health care expenses can now be determined if we belong to the 42% or 58% of the population. Read here:

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7 Great Apps that bring Grandparents and Grandchildren together

Smart Home Automation

With society’s increase in (and reliance on) technology, many people have feared that we are losing the important face-to-face interactions that help us connect and better understand each other. Although spending quality face-to-face time is important, for grandchildren and grandparents who are separated by geography or unconventional family structures, connecting online via social media and other communication tools like Skype is a great option.

“70% of teens say the computer increases the quantity of their communication with family members living far away, and 67% say it increases the quality of those communications,” IKeepSafe reports.

These apps are a great way to connect, especially for families who live apart:

  1. Ancestry websites are a great way for grandparents and older grandchildren to explore their family’s heritage together. Some popular ones include Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.
  2. Keepy:  Share art-work, school projects and other things that grandparents love to put on their fridge (but don’t have room for).
  3. Kindoma: Draw, play or read together in real time.
  4. Redeo: Lets you read together while your young grandchild turns the pages.
  5. Scoot & Doodle: Collaborate together on homework.
  6. SkypeVoxerooVoo and Rounds are examples of apps that allow you to send photos and videos, talk and text in real time.
  7. Wheel of Fortune is a popular game app that grandparents and grandchildren of all ages can play together, no matter the distance.
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Essential Health Apps Every Senior Should Have

 

Smart Home Automation

Aging Digitally

 

Seniors have found that, with the right repertoire of apps, smartphones and tablets can promote major lifestyle improvements. Smartphone and tablet apps allow seniors to:

  • Keep their minds active and engaged
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Keep abreast of news and world events
  • Set reminders for physician appointments and to take medicines
  • Pay bills online
  • Research and receive pertinent medical information
  • Listen to their favorite music
  • Stay well read
  • Easily take and save notes
  • Be entertained

Here are some essential medical information apps every senior should have:

  1. Lumosity: Evidence shows that seniors who keep their minds challenged and their brains active mitigate their risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia. Health claims aside, many puzzle-lovers enjoy Lumosityjust for the fun it provides. Lumosity is an ideal app for seniors, is continuously being updated with new puzzles and brain games, and is a great addition to any senior’s cell phone or tablet.
  2. Medisafe: Despite their best efforts, even seniors without memory problems can have a hard time keeping track of their medicines or fully complying with a treatment plan. Medisafe is a robust tool that seeks to help older adults manage their medications, set reminders, and create status reports about how well they have stuck to their medication regimen. At the same time, Medisafe takes privacy extremely seriously, and you can be confident that your personal medical information is safe and secure.
  3. WebMD: No app can replace a physician, but for medical information in the digital age, there is no name as trusted as WebMD. You can ask the app questions, which it responds to with highly relevant articles written by physicians who are specialists in the topic in question. It allows you to browse high-quality articles, and even get updated information about how current weather conditions may impact your health (for example, through reports on air quality and pollen levels).
  4. My Recovery app, designed by a surgeon, would help patients prepare for their operation, to understand what to expect during and after their hospital stay, and to guide them through any necessary rehabilitative physiotherapy exercises individually tailored to their needs.
  5. Blood Pressure Companion: If you want to obtain more comprehensive blood pressure data on your iPhone, try Blood Pressure Companion. This app not only lets you measure your blood pressure and heart rate, but it will also send you a test reminder. Over time, collected data will help you look for patterns in your readings. If you add your weight in the app, you may even see your blood pressure drop as you lose pounds. This is an ideal app for recording information between doctor’s visits — feel free to share your data with your doctor at your next appointment.