Home Health News

New Technologies Found at NAHC Meeting: Telehealth, Med Management Portals and an iPhone App

The author profiles many new technologies, including the “most jaw-dropping new product” – instant med reconciliation, from MedSnap; to “least jaw-dropping new product – new software vendor” – TruPointe; a noteworthy need for the home care and hospice patient audience: eFuneral, a web site that eases stress while grieving; several patient portals for aging persons who want to live at home independently and for their adult children in what the author terms has become a new home care technology category of products to deal with the needs of both generations; among other new entries into the home health arena which were presented at this year’s annual NAHC meeting in Orlando, FL.

Clinicians frequently report that the most time-consuming task during an initial assessment visit is to record all of a new patient’s medications, vitamins and supplements. Estimates as high as 45 minutes are often heard, which may explain why one of the most crowded small booths in last week’s NAHC Exhibition was the one featuring a product claiming to be able to slash that time to five minutes or less.

Based in Birmingham, Alabama, MedSnap has created an iPhone app that takes a photo of pills, capsules and tablets and instantly recognizes them by brand and dosage. Director of Clinical Services Lee Caldwell, MPH, demonstrated the app by placing about 20 medications onto a specially designed plate. He then hovered his iPhone over the place until four markers on its display matched up with identical markers on the plate, one on each corner.

As soon as the markers were aligned, and without Caldwell having to push a button, the app made an image of the plate’s contents. In about two seconds, a detailed description of every pill appeared on the screen, complete with dosage size, chemical and brand names and instructions to take each one with or without food, water, juice, etc. A list of interaction warnings also appeared at the top of the iPhone screen.

Caldwell explained that the data is easily exported for transfer to PC and Mac applications and that version for Android and Windows Mobile are in the works. medsnap.com

Least jaw-dropping new product – new software vendor:
It is a four-decade-old story that made sense possibly as late as the mid-’90′s but not since. Agency owner Nicole Miller “searched everywhere” and could not find a single decent software product to purchase so she created her own. TruPointe is based in Houston, Texas, where there are hundreds of very small home care provider companies, dozens of them with identical street addresses and different suite numbers. Perhaps Miller’s effort will experience some success in that environment. We will schedule a product demonstration and write a review with a few weeks. We have also made ourselves a note to look for them at next year’s meeting to see whether home care has room for one more software vendor.

Web site eases stress while grieving
Another booth that received a great deal of word-of-mouth-generated traffic was eFuneral. Co-founder Mike Belsito explained to us that a personal experience led him and his partner to try to take some of the pressure off the shoulders of people who are in the immediate throes of a loss of a love one. Marketed both to individuals and to hospices, the service posts to its site, eFuneral.com, a complete list of funeral homes in a market area, including prices and customer reviews. To date, Belsito has personally researched and posted eleven markets and says he is working long hours to add more metropolitan areas. “We are sticking to cities,” he told us. “Out in the country, pretty much everybody knows the local funeral home already.”

Patient portal service providers expand to at least five
They are our aging parents and siblings. They may live with manageable chronic conditions but they want to continue to live independently in their own homes, active retirement communities, or Assisted Living Facilities. Hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away, their loved ones worry about whether they will remember their doctor appointments and take their medications correctly. They wonder if they are lonely, or if they might have suffered a fall. Home care providers care for these people when they are in need of care but what becomes of them after home care discharge?

A new home care technology category has emerged to deal with the needs of both generations and it is rapidly expanding. We have reported in the past about Independa, Saturing, and SimplylHome. Last week in Orlando we discovered two more.

Caring Share arose from the personal experiences of its founder, the CEO of a large home care company, who was personally affected by the need for a family-centered care coordination solution. Users of CaringShare surround the independent elder as the hub of their attention. Family members and professional caregivers alike use the portal to communicate with the elder and with each other, coordinating tasks such as reminders or providing a ride to an appointment. The elder uses it as a social portal to keep in touch with other users as well as with family members. The company expects that, as the population ages, more and more people will enter their senior years comfortable with using computers, the Internet and social media.

Kinergy Health, LLC is the brainchild of Gail Foster Embt, a longtime health IT professional. Located at kinergyhealth.com, this patient portal service also allows family and professional caregivers to cooperatively oversee the care and well-being of an elderly person living at home.

Ms. Embt met with us in Orlando and explained that her company’s technology participates in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Blue Button” effort to accelerate the move toward electronic health records and standards for nationwide patient data exchange. The Kinergy Health portal is intended to reduce the emotional, psychological and physical stress associated with caring for an aging, sick parent. “It helps people navigate the endless bureaucracy that is the U.S. healthcare system,” she said.

Physician creates alternative to physician portal proliferation
Michael Blackstone is a private practice doctor in Alabama. He found that every home health agency he worked with offered him their own physician portal to oversee care of his patients and track his time for Medicare oversight reimbursement.

Frustrated at having to remember six or seven login and password combinations, he decided to build his own portal and instruct home care agencies how to structure their data for upload to it. Now he has only one password to remember. More importantly, now he has a product to bring to market. He believes home health care providers will jump on it as a way to be more competitive when seeking physician referral relationships.

Picture a pill box with a camera beneath it
SentiCare has a new type of electronic medication management system. Like many others, it has multiple compartments able to hold multiple pills and tablets each, covering 30 days. Unlike others we have seen, the bottom of each compartment is clear and the entire tray sits atop a high-resolution scanner. After each designated time when the patient was scheduled to empty a bin, the unit automatically initiates a scan and sends the digital image to a remote caregiver. If the bin appears empty, the caregiver can assume the medications were ingested.

The device includes an emergency call button. When the patient needs assistance, the button sends a signal and the caregiver calls the patient’s telephone. “At first, we had the button automatically call us,” explained Doug Gordon, SentiCare’s National Sales Director, ” but we found we were getting a lot of calls from lonely people with no emergency to report. So we changed so that pushing the button tells them someone will call within five minutes.”

New home telehealth vendor
Using a combination of video chat, independent vital sign peripherals, smartphone and email notifications and a USB drive that can be worn on the wrist, Lilah (Living Independent Life at Home) intends to make home telehealth available and affordable for families as well as for remote caregivers such as home health care and hospice nurses. As we are planning a full-length review of this new company in an upcoming issue, we will leave it at that. A great deal of information is available at http://www.mylilah.com/features/

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