Innovations in Medical Devices Revolutionizing Elder Care

Frost & Sullivan has reviewed several innovations in development to help seniors become independent and reduce, at least partly, the costs and stress of constant care. Learn more about these devices and the importance of their technology as the world's population ages.

People worldwide are living longer. In 2016, about 12% of the world’s population was aged 65 years and older. The United Nations expects this to increase to 15.7% in 2030.

The elderly are at a greater risk of many diseases and are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disorders, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. They may need daily or constant care to ensure safety and health—beyond what many family members are able to provide. Several innovative devices are being developed to help seniors become independent and reduce, at least partly, the costs and stress of constant care.

Innovative Wearable Device for Monitoring the Elderly

Remote patient monitoring, also known as telehealth, brings sophisticated medical technologies into the home. Florida-based CarePredict has developed an innovative wristband for seniors called CarePredict Tempo. It tracks an individual’s daily activities and provides alerts about any significant difference in personal patterns, such as not waking up at a particular time, restless sleep, or missed or repeated activities. The wristband provides reminders that can be recorded in a family member’s familiar voice.

Simple Chair System for Remote Patient Monitoring

Illinois-based Commwell has developed telemedicine diagnostic and interventional medical devices to provide preventive care, early detection of disease deterioration, emergency intervention and overall better health care management. Its Health-e-Care system is a patented, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared, multi-modality and patient-centered home healthcare platform that include the Health-e-Chair, an easy chair that is a patient’s home unit. It is integrated with biosensors for measuring and monitoring physiological parameters such as ECG, blood pressure, weight, temperature, auscultation of heart and lung sounds, blood oxygen saturation, motion and reflex response time. Through a communication unit with a remotely controlled camera, it can supervise a patient’s intake of food and medications. Regular monitoring that does not require user intervention is ideal for seniors who find it difficult to learn how to use new devices.

Connected Sensor Platform for Home Monitoring

Philips’ CareSensus activity monitoring and engagement solution is an integration of innovative technology and powerful analytics. Discreet, non-camera-based sensors are placed strategically in a senior’s home to track and record daily activities. Smart analytics identify any abnormal activities and automatically highlight them on an online dashboard that can be reviewed daily. This provides an opportunity for early intervention before a serious event occurs. The solution provides two-way video communications on a tablet, allowing the senior to video chat with home care agency staff for socialization or reminders about medications. The system can function without an Internet connection: the sensor data is sent to the monitoring platform via built-in cellular technology.

Wearable Diabetes Management Device

The American Diabetes Association estimates the prevalence of diabetes among those 65 or older in the United States to be 25.9%, or about 12 million people. A research team from Kumamoto University in Japan has developed a wearable medical device that helps in preventing and treating diabetes, especially among patients who had been seeing little benefit from their diabetes drugs and overweight or elderly patients who are unable to follow an exercise regimen. This device helps in the loss of visceral fat and improvement of blood glucose levels. The invention restores the body’s natural heat shock response to stress by restoring the function of HSP72, a protein that is responsible for reducing glucose-related abnormalities. The heat shock response function decreases in those with type 2 diabetes. The device, which is worn like a belt around the abdominal area, transmits mild electrical stimulation and heat shock simultaneously to efficiently activate HSP72 and increase the body’s reaction to stress.

Clinical trials were conducted to combine mild electrical stimulation and heat shock with DPP-4 inhibitor, which is the most often used therapeutic drug for diabetes in Japan, with results suggesting a good level of improvement in blood glucose. This device is still in the clinical trial stage and is not commercially available.

Connected Pillbox to Increase Medication Adherence

The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation estimates that about half of the approximately 187 million Americans on medication regimens do not adhere to them, which costs more than $100 billion a year in excess hospitalizations. Because the elderly are prone to multiple co-morbidities, polypharmacy is more likely, as is the risk of non-adherence to medications.

Philadelphia-headquartered TowerView Health has developed a solution that continuously tracks patients’ adherence to medical schedules, and offers a warning upon non-compliance. The smart, closed-loop solution features an internet-connected pillbox that communicates with a software system that automatically generates text message or phone call reminders about missed doses, illuminates the pillbox, and records a history for clinician follow-up.

Intelligent Drug Dispensing Solutions for Elderly Care

The National Council on Aging estimates that approximately 92% of elderly patients have at least one chronic disease, while 77% suffer from more than one. Mismanagement of chronic diseases, especially related to non-adherence to treatment schedules and medication recommendations, result in almost two-thirds of all deaths annually in the United States. Scientific studies published over the past few years estimate that approximately 50% of patients do not adhere to long-term therapy recommendations offered by physicians, especially during management of chronic diseases.

To tackle this problem, Philips introduced the Medido system, a new connected system designed to improve the overall level of medication adherence. This system dispenses pre-packaged bags of pills to match a patient’s prescription schedule. Pouches are placed inside the system in chronological order, and it is programmed to dispense them at the correct time. The system can send messages to health care practitioners about non-compliance.

Connected Solution for Urinary and Fecal Incontinence

Incontinence may be influenced by age, gender, depression, functional dependence, and prevalence of lifestyle disorders. To equip patients with an effective treatment alternative for urinary and fecal incontinence, Tokyo- and California-based venture Triple W has developed D Free, a tiny wearable device that alerts patients to appropriate times for excretion. The module weighs less than an ounce and can be worn inside a belt or specially designed underwear. The device sends ultrasound pulses to the abdominal region at programmed intervals ranging from 1 to 10 seconds and at varying intensities. The system uses Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity to send an alert to a user or caregiver’s smartphone after detection of waste build-up in the bladder and intestines. The company is working with the FDA and Japan’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Agency to certify the device for commercial prescription through various healthcare channels, including nursing homes.

What’s the Future?

Health care expenditure on the elderly is the highest among all age groups. As life expectancy increases, the share of expenditure also is expected to rise. With rising pressure on governments, payers, and manufacturers to reduce health care costs, innovative digital technologies have tremendous potential to improve elder care and control costs.

Copyright © 2017 Frost & Sullivan