The recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was chock-full of digital health care products, from wearable fitness tech performance meters to connected scales, blood pressure and glucose meters and more.
Study after study, however, shows that the market for digital home health products hardly … er … has a pulse. Digital Home Health just can’t seem to take off, despite the all-too-common knowledge that the Baby Boomer generation is rapidly aging and facing health issues and strongly prefers to do so from the comfort and luxury of their own homes. Or people have elderly parents who need looking after, but live independently.
What are the big hurdles with the digital home health market? Much of the technology, from high-tech medication dispensers to medication reminders and alerts. PERS systems that notify caregivers when a person has fallen and can’t get up, for example, and sensors and cameras that detect movement within a living space—are geared toward more elderly aging-in-place people.
As Jason Ray of digital health provider SimplyHome states, “A lot of the issues in the aging market are with fear of technology. A lot of people in that age range don’t have an acceptance of technology or are tech-savvy.”
Ray says others down an age bracket or two still have to accept that they have a need. There are plenty of middle-age people with conditions from high blood pressure to diabetes and other ailments who could use monitoring from home via a health service and connected devices like pulse oximeters for people with COPD and peak flow meters for asthma sufferers.
Builders of active adult communities and aging in place developments need to look into offering digital health systems—at the very least as a backbone that is in place should a person need help in coming years.
SimplyHome’s system, for example, uses a Hub that wirelessly connects to other devices like blood pressure, blood glucose and COPD meters, and sends that information to caregivers via the Internet. SimplyHome has a system of sensors including door sensors to alert caregivers when a door has been opened, motion sensors to ensure a person is up and about, even its own stove sensor that knows when someone has stepped away.
But none of that stuff has to go into a new build. Just a base system of about $1,000 with the Hub can go in, and people can add to the system if they need it later, perhaps years down the line.
Rays says SimplyHome is talking to builders of a couple of communities, one which provides a full range from active adults to nursing.
“Having it available gives a lot of peace of mind,” Ray says. “It can be set up and ready to go so if 10 years from now if you have a need.”
Greater acceptance of digital home health products and services may also come with more telehealth applications, such as biometric readings that are reported to one’s doctor and not just a health provider organization. However, Ray warns that there’s a long way to go before the average person adopts digital home health.
There’s still plenty of reasons to look for this market to take off at some point in the not-too-distant future. More and more electronic health records will be rolled out, as well as policies and procedures for dealing with them. And as hospitals face steep penalties under the Affordable Care Act for readmissions, often because a patient doesn’t take medications, they will increasingly look to home digital health products.
Though major disconnects between doctors’ offices and hospitals still exist and the fact doctor’s aren’t encouraged to invest in services without insurance reimbursement, Ray and others in the digital health care industry see much broader adoption of their technologies by the end of this decade. “There are lots of people working on it, and lots of incentive,” he says.
And with homebuyers set to live out their years in active adult communities—or at least several years in new homes—homebuilders can offer buyers at least the system basics.