by Mr. Walt Maclay

September 2013

Home healthcare is a huge market. The demand is growing. Investors, executives, and technologists all have ideas for solutions. The key to moving things forward is to bring all of these stakeholders together to look at their issues and concerns.

Healthcare providers are worried that they’re not going to be able to take care of everybody.  There aren’t enough doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. The doctors are concerned about taking care of everybody.  Currently, doctors spend about seven minutes with each patient. As the aging population increases, they’ll have more demand on their time and less time to spend with each patient.

The vast majority of the aging don’t want to be taken care of in healthcare facilities.  They want to live independently in their homes. I dealt with this with my own father.  “I’m not like those other people here who are sick.  I’m fine. I can live at home.”

The children of the aging need help caring for their parents. Typically, the children are not next door to their parents.  Often, they are in another state or another country.  They need to care for their parents, even though they’re remote.

Insurance companies are caught in the middle.  The federal regulations are demanding efficacy rather than procedures.  The cost of insurance is getting so high that we can’t afford it to be more.

Investors and CEOs are aware that while these are all problems, they are opportunities too.  Investors and CEOs see a fast-growing market and the chance to make money.

Technologists have solutions.  The technology has reached the point that we can make things small enough and cheap enough and accurate enough to be very successful. Just in the last few years, thousands of new hardware and software solutions became available for home health and for the aging.

Some examples of innovation:

pancreum

source: Pancreum

Pancreum is working on an artificial pancreas that you can wear.  It is a flexible, open platform, common architecture design system that has three major pieces. There’s a piece that will measure your glucose level.  There’s a pump that will pump insulin.  And then there’s the central piece that is the processor. Because they’re intended to be interchangeable and separable, there’s potential for other companies to even provide other portions of the solution.  Very interesting.

Source: Puracath

 

In home dialysis, Puracath is working on a device that will sterilize the dialysis-patient’s catheter.  This is not out yet, but sterilizing the catheter for dialysis is a big issue.  All of these home health issues are bigger issues for the elderly than for the young.

 

 

Source: Proteus Digital Health

Proteus Digital Health has a little chip that goes on a pill and a wearable patch that detects if the medication has been taken.  When you take your pill, the chip is activated by the acids in your stomach and sends a message to the patch. The patch then relays the information to the digital health feedback system on your mobile device. It is pretty cool technology for ensuring compliance taking medication.
 

Source: Sunrise Medical

 

Sunrise Medical has a self-leveling wheelchair. If you’re on an uneven surface, it can be difficult. This is a nice solution that does more than increase comfort.  It provides safety.

scanadu

Source: Scanadu

 

Scanadu is working on a science-fiction tricorder medical scanner. Its health screening will detect diseases early. They’re close to shipping some prototypes.

It is an exciting time, where the future is here and some cool new technology is on the horizon.

To leverage these advances and come up with some really good solutions, we have to bring together stakeholders: the startup CEOs, the technology people, the designers, the marketing and sales people, the healthcare providers, the elderly, their children, care givers, insurance companies, the companies that are designing things, and market research companies.

I’m involved in a group that’s bringing these people together.  It’s Tech-enhanced Life (www.techenhancedlife.com).  We’re bringing together people in all the areas for working together to help address the issues of the aging. I invite you to join and contribute to the group with your thoughts and ideas.