Wireless devices answer the call for help

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Steve Popovich
Steve Popovich

As a result of rising medical costs and an increasing number of patients with chronic conditions, many senior living facilities are seeking wireless monitoring solutions for managing patients' health in addition to life-safety. For all patients or residents, any change or decline in their condition needs to be detected as quickly as possible to allow for early intervention. 

According to a study conducted by IMS Research, more than 50 million wireless health monitoring devices will ship for consumer monitoring applications during the next five years. Such devices offer personalized care for a variety of health scenarios, including fall risks. 

Falls are a major health risk. It is estimated that one in three persons over the age of 65 is likely to fall at least once a year. Personal emergency response systems can help by providing a "panic button" device that a senior can press if an accident occurs.  However, a 2008 study by the British Medical Journal found that 80% of people over the age of 90 who wore monitoring devices never pushed the alert button after a fall, either because they didn't want to bother anyone or were unable to do so.  If a fall goes undetected, the results can be devastating for both the patient and the senior living facility.  Remaining on the floor, even for a few hours, can lead to problems such as dehydration, low body temperature and skin sores due to pressure. Additionally, senior living facilities can face the loss of revenue, lawsuits and license revocation if falls go undetected. 

To prevent undetected falls, senior living facilities are now looking for solutions that feature a built-in accelerometer that measures movement and orientation, and can automatically sense falls. When a fall is detected, it sends an alert where it is deemed appropriate, such as a caregiver or nurse station. With automatic alerts, caregivers are able to act more quickly to provide assistance. In addition, automatic detection allows a trend to be developed over time that may indicate an increase in instability over time. If the system also determines the location of the resident, a pattern of difficulty with certain locations or time of day may emerge.

Of course, it is everyone's goal to prevent falls before they happen. Most falls are associated with one or more identifiable risk factors such as weakness, confusion and certain medications. Research has shown that identification and attention to these risk factors can significantly reduce fall rates. Companies such as AFrame Digital have introduced technology that is designed to detect changes so medical personnel and caregivers can be alerted before a fall happens.

AFrame's MobileCare™ Monitor system, a wrist watch-like device, wirelessly communicates a user's motion and location data to a cloud-based monitoring and alerting system. The AFrame system's capabilities include emergency call, impact detection, location tracking, along with activity and vitals tracking and trending. The solution uses ZigBee wireless technology, provided by Digi International, to connect to the network, and the iDigi Device cloud to make system management easy.   

Additional sensors can be added as needed to detect environmental changes, like humidity or motion, and or health changes for vitals tracking using weight scales, pulse oximeters, glucometers and blood pressure cuffs. This data is automatically pulled in to the system for real-time analysis and trending.

These types of advanced technology allow a comprehensive solution that supports institutions and care models that extend into the community.

Kelly Besecker is Vice President for Sales and Marketing at AFrame Digital. Steve Popovich is Vice President, Business Development at Digi International.

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