The Longevity

FDA Commissioner Announces Pilot for Expediting Approval of Digital Health Products

Just a few weeks into his role as the US Food and Drug (FDA) Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb has announced that providing clear guidance on digital health regulation--and expediting approval for low-risk digital health products and services--is a priority for the agency. (Read his original letter on FDA's blog).

[Late last week], Gottlieb...announced an upcoming pilot program that would create a third-party certification program under which lower-risk digital health products could be marketed without FDA premarket review and higher-risk products could be marketed with a streamlined FDA review.

The pilot, part of a new approach to regulating digital health tools, would help to certify, according to Gottlieb, whether a company "consistently and reliably engages in high quality software design and testing (validation) and ongoing maintenance of its software products. Employing a unique pre-certification program for software as a medical device (SaMD) could reduce the time and cost of market entry for digital health technologies."

This effort to provide clearer guidelines and expedited processes for digital health products is all part of FDA's implementation of the 21st Century CURES Act that was passed in December at the tail end of the Obama Administration. The Cures Act, passed with an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate, aims to "boost funding for medical research, ease the development and approval of experimental treatments and reform federal policy on mental health care," according to a Washington Post article at the time.

"...FDA will provide new guidance on other technologies that, although not addressed in the 21st Century Cures Act, present low enough risks that FDA does not intend to subject them to certain pre-market regulatory requirements," Gottlieb wrote in FDA’s Voice Blog.

FDA also will provide guidance clarifying its stance on products that contain multiple software functions and which currently fall outside FDA regulations.

The push into digital health comes as Bakul Patel, ‎associate center director for digital health at FDA, recently told conference attendees that guidance related to software as a medical device, and a new dedicated unit to digital health are coming to FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). 

(See our coverage of FDA's new digital health unit here).

Gottleib also touted the role of a universal method for collecting post-market data on digital health products and using that data in turn to expedite new or evolving product functions.

"For example, product developers could leverage real-world data gathered through the National Evaluation System for health Technology (NEST) to expedite market entry and subsequent expansion of indications more efficiently ... The Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC), a 501(c)(3) public-private partnership, is serving as an independent coordinating center that operates NEST. In the coming weeks, MDIC will announce the establishment of a Governing Committee for the NEST Coordinating Center comprised of stakeholder representatives of the ecosystem, such as patients, health care professionals, health care organizations, payers, industry, and government," Gottlieb wrote.

NEST’s fully operational system is expected to come by the end of 2019.

New App Curatio Looks to be the Tinder of Social Support for the Ill

Curatio is not setting out to help manage chronic illness or coordinate care. But it is looking to improve patient outcomes by combatting the social isolation that often comes with the diagnosis of a chronic or even terminal condition.

The social app company first launched through a startup competition in 2013 and revamped in past weeks to serve 10 different health communities. The app acts like an online dating app to connect you with people who have similar health experiences, down to exactly which symptoms they're experiencing. Then, anyone you connect with becomes part of your network to create a news feed that's like a HIPAA-compliant version of Facebook. 

Since health information is involved, privacy is key. Anything you share only goes to people you've approved to see it. And you can't be totally anonymous, but you don't have to use your real identity. 

There's also an AI concierge to answer questions about health information and a section for personal disease management and health tracking. Curatio also licenses its technology to other health providers and communities for their own social tools. 

The platform can cover a wide variety of conditions, and even has a section for caregivers.

Current groups include menopause, traumatic brain injury, heart disease, the blood disease Thalassemia, Crohn's disease and colitis, Type 1 diabetes, and a community for caregivers. 

Shirley Weir founded the Facebook group Menopause Chicks, which transferred their community over to Curatio. 

"If somebody comes to my community [on Facebook] and says, 'I'm losing hair,' I can give them information on experts or books," Weir said. "It's different to say, 'Talk to these four women who also experienced hair loss.'"

Ganzert-Brown declined to provider user metrics, but said Curatio users are now in 31 countries. 

Looking for the Next Hot Innovation in Senior Living Tech? Check out…Milwaukee

In 2015, far from Silicon Valley, downtown Milwaukee became home to the Direct Supply Innovation Center, a large, neo-Gothic building (pictured above) housing an incubator for “cutting-edge senior living technologies”.

Furnished with a vintage scoreboard from the Brewers’ old County Stadium—and a bar with working beer tap—the space is Milwaukee-proud while exuding Silicon Valley cool. This is the setting where 28 startups currently are incubating technology, like “virtual field trips,” that could help define the future of senior living.

Innovation Center Managing Director Tom Paprocki and Direct Supply Executive Creative Director Tom Hansen recently spoke with Senior Housing News about how the center works and what they see for the future of senior living tech, including how providers can avoid “pilot purgatory,” and why the last two years have been a turning point for the industry.

Here is an abridged version of the Q&A:

Senior Housing News: Why was the Innovation Center created?

Tom Paprocki: It’s really hard to change this industry, hard to bring innovation and actually have it effectively implemented, and since we do touch as many buildings as we do, and work with as many operators as we do, and have a reputation that we’re not just here for a dollar today, I think there was an opportunity to become more actively involved as an intermediary, where we help test and effectively bring some of this tech to customers where it can do some good.

Did you hear that, entrepreneurs? This incubator comes with a built-in go to market strategy.

SHN: How are you finding the startups that are working out of the center?

TP: We used to have to hunt. Now they find us. A question in any business plan is, how are you going to get this to market, and entrepreneurs ask around and hear, you should talk to Direct Supply …. It’s also very strange how networks work. I find it fascinating. A week and a half ago, I had the producer of The Deadliest Catch in here working with us on something for VR (virtual reality). Everybody is connected.

SHN: How do you decide what new technologies to work with, which ones have the greatest potential to make a difference for your senior living customers?

TP: There are four buckets. Does it help the senior living provider make more money? Is it either going to drive occupancy or improve revenue per bed through bolt-on services? Will it lower the cost of delivering health care or lower the cost of operating the physical plant? Does it improve access either through the ability to reach seniors within some given radius of your building or improve rural health, or does it demonstrably improve outcomes?

SHN: What are some of the ways you support these startups?

TP: Most entrepreneurs in this space had a parent go through something or a grandparent go through something, and they find out how crazy it is, and they say, well, I’m going to fix that. They don’t understand how reimbursement works, they don’t understand how regulation works, so we provide a lot of expertise around that.

SHN: Do you invest in them directly?

TP: No. We facilitate investments. I’m just about to finish an A-round for a company that’s about a $3.5 million raise. It’s not our money, but I do a ton of calls with potential investors.

Again, entrepreneurs, take note: a large player in the industry is making investor calls on your behalf.

SHN: Would you invest at some point down the line? 

TP: Here’s the challenge. Part of the reason I think we’ve been successful as a company is that we’ve always been impartial. We sell to 95% of the communities in the country, and we never say, “Hey, you need to buy this product or that one.”…If we have an equity position in a startup, we do have to face the very real issue of optics. In the end, we’re an employee-owned company that always has its customers’ best interests at heart. That having been said, the best products and solutions of the future will be increasingly complex and holistic, and we want to play an active role in testing and making sure that the best solutions win. That’s because our customers simply don’t have the time or resources to make sense of the tidal wave of options. If we can invest and do that in a way where we feel like we’re still being honest, then, yes, we would do it.

…Even now, I think a great deal of what we’re working on is a bit much for some people. To slap investment on top of that might lead to cardiac arrest, so we’ll ease into that over time. For now, we still help entrepreneurs considerably on the funding side of the equation by working closely with other investors. What we really offer is access and unmatched industry expertise, and those are things that are critical both to inventors and investors.

SHN: How are you defining success?

TP: At the end of the day, we’re an employee-owned, mission-driven company. We still need to make money, but we have a number of metrics. Some are financial and some are more about how you actually move the needle on getting some of this stuff to the finish line, because so many things stall out, and we want to get them through and be the partner of choice with what we see as the best innovators out there in senior care.

SHN: How much are you investing into the Innovation Center in the coming years, is there a number? 

TP: Not really. It’s well into the seven figures.

SHN: Is there enough talent in Milwaukee to be the hub of senior care?

TP: I’ll be super honest. No. At least not yet. But there doesn’t have to be, because out of the 28 startups we work with, only six, soon to be seven, are here. The rest are all over the world. One of them is moving to Milwaukee from Europe next month, and honestly it’s probably at least partially for the beer and the cheese. I believe there’s actually a lot of talent here, and we’re also very close to Chicago. But this is going to take an effort that’s far bigger than any location, whether it’s San Francisco or Boston or wherever. Do I think we can play a key role in driving a lot of this? Absolutely.

The Longevity Network, for one, looks forward to seeing what comes out of this neo-gothic Innovation Center in the heart of middle America.

Forbes Looks at How the Internet of Medical Things Will Alter Future of Caregiving, Part II

Yesterday, we covered the first half of Forbes’ article on advances in the Internet of Medical Things, and today, we turn to the second half.

But first, a review of the context:

In 2013, AARP coined the term “caregiving cliff”—that impending moment when the number of older adults needing some level of caregiving will vastly outnumber those human beings able to provide care. In 2010, there were 7 able adults for every 1 needing care. By 2030, the ratio will be just 4 to 1, and by 2050, it will fall to 3 to 1.

But the issue is not just a shortage of caregivers; it’s also the cost of care. In a recent article for Forbes, writer Reenita Das elaborates:

For example the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimate that while the U.S. elderly population in 2010 was about 13%, it accounted for 34% of the total healthcare expenditure. As life expectancy rises in the future, the share of expenditure, too, is expected to rise. It is also estimated that elderly health expenditure may more than double between the ages of 70 and 90, depending on the region. With rising pressure on governments, payers and manufacturers to reduce healthcare costs, senior care needs solutions in order to be prepared for this impending rise in expenditure.

As AARP argues, however, the convergence of the caregiving cliff and the skyrocketing cost of providing care to so many aging baby boomers should be seen as an enormous economic opportunity. (They also identified six specific “caregiving frontiers” ripe for innovation—frontiers that, along with nine “health frontiers”, define the themes covered by The Longevity Network).

Entrepreneurs and investors have listened to that call for caregiving innovation.

Forbes recently provided their own short list of the ten ways the medical internet of things (MIoT) is going to revolutionize senior care. Here we take a look at the first five, paired with some of The Longevity Network’s very own Entrepreneur of the Week profiles.

Again, yesterday, we covered the first five ways, and here, we take a look at 6-10.

  1. Disability Assistance Tools

Varied smart products are available for some disabilities that seniors suffer from hearing difficulty to sensory or cognitive impairment.

The Longevity Network’s “Entrepreneur of the Week” Examples:

GTX Corp: pioneer and innovator in Smart, Mobile and Wearable GPS, cellular and BLE tracking and recovery location based services. 

Timeless: simple and easy to use mobile app for Alzheimer’s patients to remember events, stay connected and engaged with friends and family, and to recognize people through automatic Artificial Intelligence based facial recognition technology.

GoGoGrandparent: a service to connect older adults to on-demand services for rides, meals and groceries via any phone without needing to use a smartphone app

SafeWander: a wearable sensor made by SensaRx that sends an alert to a caregiver’s mobile device when a loved one or patient gets up from a bed or chair, even if the caregiver is far away

NeuroCern: a dementia population health analytics and care management software solution that helps improve health and financial outcomes for patients, family caregivers, and healthcare enterprise stakeholders

RespondWell: Telerehab solution that gives care teams the transparency needed to monitor patient condition and advance patient recovery through a gamified approach to rehabilitation with on-screen digital instructors and incentives

Constant Therapy: a platform for providing customized therapy tools to those with brain injury, stroke, aphasia, and other brain conditions

MedRhythms: a neuro-rehab company, providing interventions to achieve optimum outcomes in sensorimotor, speech & language, and cognitive goals in patients

Audicus: high quality, customized hearing aids affordable and accessible by offering them online without the markups found at a clinic

Liftware: Liftware currently offers two products that stabilize and level handles and attachments for people with hand tremor or limited hand and arm mobility

  1. Smart Implants

Pacemakers that communicate data to smartphone apps for sharing with physicians (Medtronic MyCareLink), sensors that are embedded in orthopedic implants to communicate performance post-surgery (OrthoSensor) or glucose sensors that communicate diabetics’ glucose levels to smartphones or dedicated readers (such as products in development by GlySens, Senseonics, Echo Therapeutics or Google’s smart lens) are all examples of smart implants. These can help seniors take care of their health and manage their conditions better, ensuring medical intervention is sought immediately when required.

  1. Smart Senior Homes

Care staff can monitor seniors with the use of wrist-worn wearables that track their location as well as activities performed (such as bathing, walking, sleeping, etc…But the true power of the technology lies in machine learning and predictive analytics to derive insights from seniors’ daily routines as well as any deviations. Insights could include emerging physical or mental health conditions, which can help alert care providers to the need for immediate medical intervention. 

The Longevity Network’s “Entrepreneur of the Week” Examples:

Marvee (2017 LivePitch finalist):  voice-enabled assistant to connect users with limited vision, mobility, or other challenges with their caregivers

 Home for Life Design: a home assessment service followed by recommendations for products and services to help seniors and baby boomers age in place safely and comfortably.

  1. Family Caregiver Remote Monitoring Tools

There are a plethora of devices which ensure that seniors are constantly but non-intrusively monitored and receive immediate attention and medical assistance when it may be needed the most…Any deviation in routine will be detected, and family members can contact seniors to ensure that seniors are, indeed, all right. 

The Longevity Network’s “Entrepreneur of the Week” Examples:

Care3: a patient and family engagement platform for coordinating post-acute care to improve outcomes and reduce costly hospital readmissions for underserved populations including seniors, people of color, and the disabled

OnKöl: a caregiving hub that enables third-party connected home sensors to work in conjunction with health sensors such as Blood Pressure Cuffs, Blood Glucose Meters, Scales, and mainstream activity trackers to connect seniors with their family and caregivers.

Caremerge: a HIPAA-compliant communication and care coordination network that keeps the entire care team informed and cohesive through an intuitive interface

  1. Other Approaches

Several innovative devices are being developed to address medical challenges. Consider the Opnwatr.IO approach of developing a wearable device that could provide MRI-level details in the bodies or brains of wearers. For seniors, this means not having to frequently undergo expensive procedures, and receiving more knowledge about their conditions without the discomfort of being surrounded by large scanning machines, and at a much lower cost. Another device is the Gyenno "Smart Cup" for Parkinson’s patients, allowing them to use cups independently despite tremors they may be experiencing. Sensors detect and help counteract the action of tremors to keep the cup steady. Similar spoon and fork products, although not necessarily true IoMT devices, are also available from Gyenno as well as LiftLabs. These products can help seniors become independent, and help reduce, at least partly, the costs of constant care support.

Forbes Looks at How the Internet of Medical Things Will Alter Future of Caregiving, Part I

In 2013, AARP coined the term “caregiving cliff”—that impending moment when the number of older adults needing some level of caregiving will vastly outnumber those (human beings) able to provide care. In 2010, there were 7 able adults for every 1 needing care. By 2030, the ratio will be just 4 to 1, and by 2050, it will fall to 3 to 1.

But the issue is not just a shortage of caregivers; it’s also the cost of care. In a recent article for Forbes, writer Reenita Das elaborates:

For example the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimate that while the U.S. elderly population in 2010 was about 13%, it accounted for 34% of the total healthcare expenditure. As life expectancy rises in the future, the share of expenditure, too, is expected to rise. It is also estimated that elderly health expenditure may more than double between the ages of 70 and 90, depending on the region. With rising pressure on governments, payers and manufacturers to reduce healthcare costs, senior care needs solutions in order to be prepared for this impending rise in expenditure.

As AARP argues, however, the convergence of the caregiving cliff and the skyrocketing cost of providing care to so many aging baby boomers should be seen as an enormous economic opportunity. (They also identified six specific “caregiving frontiers” ripe for innovation—frontiers that, along with nine “health frontiers”, define the themes covered by The Longevity Network).

Entrepreneurs and investors have listened to that call for caregiving innovation.

Forbes recently provided their own short list of the ten ways the medical internet of things (MIoT) is going to revolutionize senior care. Here we take a look at the first five, paired with some of The Longevity Network’s very own Entrepreneur of the Week profiles. Tomorrow, we’ll cover the remaining five.

  1. Vitals-Tracking Wearables

A majority of seniors suffer from non-communicable diseases, including cardiac ailments, diabetes and hypertension. For cardiac patients, heart monitors that can monitor ailments such as arrhythmia and can alert doctors to adverse events in real time and help prevent further complications…"Smart" glucometers…can communicate measured blood glucose readings to an app on a smartphone for storage, tracking and managing diabetes can help elderly patients better manage their diabetes. Regular activity monitoring and heart rate monitoring can be achieved by one of several available consumer wearable devices and smartwatches. 

The Longevity Network’s Examples:

Siren Care (Winner of Audience Choice Award at AARP’s 2017 Innovation@50+ LivePitch event)

iBeat (2017 LivePitch finalist)

Proteus Digital Health


  1. Medication Adherence Tools

Seniors have several medications they need to take, and with age, remembering everything becomes a challenge. Missed doses can result in exacerbation of medical conditions, and in some severe cases can even lead to serious consequences requiring hospitalization. Several IoMT products address this challenge by helping users remember when to take their medication.

The Longevity Network’s Entrepreneur of the Week Examples:

PillDrill (2017 LivePitch finalist)





  1. Virtual Home Assistants

Virtual [robotic] assistants like Catalia Health’s Mabu robot or Intuition Robotics ElliQ robot…interact with seniors via voice and touchscreens, [and] they can also help them stay connected with their family and friends digitally–via social media platforms and video chat. Additionally, they can help patients remember to take their medications, take notes and remind patients about their care providers’ medical advice. 

Apart from robots, another category of virtual assistants is voice-interactive digital assistants like Amazon Echo or the healthcare-specific version provided by Lenovo Health in partnership with Orbita Health. For seniors, such devices can be used for medication adherence and care coordination, as well as patient engagement, all areas in which (considerable) healthcare cost savings can be made.

The Longevity Network’s Entrepreneur of the Week Examples:

Marvee (2017 LivePitch finalist)

  1. Portable Diagnostics Devices

Instead of frequently visiting a pathology laboratory for getting urine or blood tests done, smart and portable diagnostics devices can help seniors perform such tests in the comfort of their homes, and get results in formats that allow them to be instantly shared with their care providers…[As more tests become available remotely, the] added convenience means seniors can perform diagnostic tests more frequently, helping to diagnose diseases and thus to begin treatment sooner, ensuring complications are prevented to save avoidable healthcare costs.

  1. Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

Several products are already well established and serve many needs of seniors, inside and outside of their residences, such as fall detection, emergency assistance and navigation guidance back to residence (for dementia patients, for example) or even boundary perimeter breach alerts (for Alzheimer’s patients, for example). Some products even include additional features such as medication reminders…In addition, a unique concept that goes beyond simple fall detection is that of ActiveProtective’s smart belt, which detects falls and deploys air bags to prevent fall-related injuries and uses Bluetooth technology to trigger an alert to designated emergency contacts. Technologies such as these can help save avoidable fall-related healthcare costs.

The Longevity Network’s Entrepreneur of the Week Examples:

iBeat (2017 LivePitch finalist)


The Longevity Network’s Guide To Pitching Digital Health & Caregiving Investors

Entrepreneurs are compelling—captivating even—because of their passion, their willingness to take risks, and their backstory of how they came to be so passionate and willing to take risks. So everything you’ve read about 1) making your pitch aspirational; 2) being creative in capturing “the problem” you’re trying to solve and 3) adding a personal story about why you care about this problem—those are all good tips. You want to convey the entrepreneurial persona when you have those few minutes of an investor’s time.

However, the aura is not usually enough, in particular, for investors experienced in the health tech and caregiving space for the 50+ market. This sector is uncommonly complex. To name just a few reasons: we have both public and private payers, enormous variety in providers, convoluted regulations dictating the behavior of payers and providers and a whole slew of shifting dynamics among aging but capable older adults and their paid and unpaid caregivers (the latter of which often bring geographical distance and complicated family dynamics into the picture).

So what else do you need to make sure you convey in a successful pitch? Here's a curated list pulled from real feedback investors gave entrepreneurs after hearing their pitches.


Even if you’ve successfully conveyed the entrepreneurial aura, your potential investor can still be left wondering about the basics: who is the user and who is the buyer? These fundamentals of your business plan should not be left to clarify during the Q&A, so when practicing your pitch, make sure you clearly convey who benefits and who pays.


Time is of the essence when developing your pitch, so the details of the business plan cannot always be included, but make sure you are fully conversant in those details should any questions come up afterwards. For example, here are a few questions coaches asked during AARP’s recent Innovation@50+ LivePitch event in Mountain View, CA.

- What does it cost for consumers now and what will it look like when you add b2b? What problem are b2b customers most interested in solving for?

- How do you provide value back to the payers?

- How many units do you need to sell to be profitable

- What is the lifetime value of a customer?

- What if your user varies their behavior, e.g., doesn’t take their meds at home one day?

- Tell me more about the data integration with your app.


If you haven’t yet heard of CAC, now is the time to learn about it because every investor worth their salt will be asking. Cost of (Customer) Acquisition is important for every startup but particularly for startups whose product is software and / or if your target customer is a payer or provider because those sales cycles are notoriously long.

If you aren’t tracking CAC yet, start now and come to any future pitch armed with data.

Here are some versions of the way you may be asked this question:

- How does acquisition happen?

- How do people find you?

- What data do you have on the cost of acquisition—i.e., growth cost versus cost of maintenance?

- How do you integrate into these health systems specifically, i.e., who do you target and how do you locate the decision makers?

Closely related to acquisition cost questions are questions about the costs involved in scaling up? You will want to be conversant how hiring, training, and marketing play into your business.

You may hear, for example:

- Would you need to build a fairly sizable marketing engine to scale?

- Have you calculated how large a sales team you would need to hit target customer numbers?

- What percentage of your scaling up operation is human-driven and what percentage is based on marketing campaigns?

- Do you have any organic referrals happening yet or are you generating all your own leads?


This is a brief lesson: investors know that execution of the business plan is one of the top 3 or 4 factors in the success of startup. Being the impassioned, visionary founder is compelling, but don’t forget to highlight the domain expertise, technical abilities or marketing savvy of your fellow team members. Any previous success with a startup venture is particularly good to highlight.


Having a plan in place for building strategic partnerships may be what separates the unicorns (or even reasonable success stories) from the zombies doomed by an unforgivingly high CAC. Every digital health or caregiving tech startup faces an uphill battle, and investors know it. The space is inefficient and the market is enormous—which is to say, ripe for disruption—but breaking in is still tough and many a startup with a great idea and a talented team has run out of cash before achieving that market traction crucial to securing Series A or even sufficient seed funding.

But don’t show up with a vague reference to how you will soon begin developing those strategic partnerships. Have a concrete list in mind of who they might be and, importantly, what it would mean to be “partners”.  Would they be:

- Distribution channels?

- A marketing platform?

- Willing to pay for kind of data you will be collecting or producing as a by-product?


Pilots for digital health and health IT products have become very popular in recent years. Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, one of the largest operators of senior care facilities in the country, has even developed an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. (See our in-depth exclusive of the program here).

It’s a great idea to highlight any past or current pilots during a pitch, but because they have become so prevalent, make sure you are prepared to provide plenty of detail so it conveys your skillful execution.

Questions you may hear from investors:

- What have been your biggest learnings from consumer-facing pilot?

- What was the number 1 request you received from your customer during your pilot?

And crucially,

- Is there anything in place to roll this pilot into a paying contract automatically, if say, a certain benchmark is achieved?

Investors will love to hear that you have negotiated that conversion to paying customer ahead of time, because they have already seen too many startups die a slow cycle of “death by pilot”.


This key indicator should arguably be at the top, included under “the basics”. Any smart investor will want to know as much as possible about the competitive landscape, and it may be up to you to educate them on it, depending on how niche your product or service is.

Again, this is not a topic to leave for the Q&A—it should be defined and then reinforced during your pitch.

This is particularly true if you are attempting to break into an already crowded field. As one judge from LivePitch told a contestant: “be stone cold on your differentiator and your creativity, because there are a LOT of these on the market”.

Here are a few ways to frame it:

- How do you differentiate from competitors?

- What competitor scares you the most?

- Do you have anything proprietary—patents or trademarks—that would secure your market differentiation?

Pitching has become its own art form, so the competition is stiff. The better prepared you can be shows not just that you value the time and expertise of the investor but also, that you understand your business model from top to bottom. And that—reinforces the entrepreneurial mystique.  

IBM Seeks Ways to Make Tech Accessible to All—Including an Initiative on Cognitive Eldercare

IBM has long been ahead of the curve in integrating disabled individuals into their workforce, says Forbes contributing writer Robert J. Szczerba but they want to go a step further than that and remove barriers to technology usage for everyone from the aging to those with learning disabilities.

 The IBM Accessibility Research group seeks to reduce or eliminate barriers to technology. Their efforts are focused on creating solutions that help individuals with disabilities (both physical and cognitive), the growing aging population, novice technology users, and people with language, learning and literacy challenges. Their goal is to enable people of all ages and abilities to live more independent, productive and meaningful lives through better access to technology.

Dr. Ruoyi Zhou, Director of Accessibility Research at IBM, explained “the organization was created in 1999 with the mandate to help integrate accessibility more formally across IBM’s product portfolio to help comply with government accessibility requirements.” Today, their research is focused on three primary areas:

- Cognitive Eldercare

- Enablement and Guidance

- Technology and Innovation

Launched in 2016, Cognitive Eldercare is IBM’s response to the shifting demographics of the “silver tsumani” of aging baby boomers—and the economic impact it is bringing to so many sectors.

To address this critical issue, in 2016 IBM launched its Cognitive Eldercare initiative. The goal is to help the world’s growing aging population live in their own homes longer by creating smart residences and environments that use intelligent sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, etc. Zhou believes that through a network of connected devices, sensors and cognitive systems it can allow family members and caregivers to proactively monitor the health and well being of an aging population.  

On the aging side, Zhou [notes] that the elders of today are not the elders of tomorrow. She adds, “the elders of tomorrow (60 years old today) will have a very different relationship with technology. IBM has to meet the needs of today’s elders as well as designing for the adoption of emerging technologies for future generations, while still keeping a balance with privacy.”

“We also found that loneliness is a growing concern for the elderly.” Zhou continued. “Loneliness has been identified as a looming public health crisis, resulting in higher health care costs, greater mortality and lower quality of life." IBM is exploring how to use cognitive technologies to better identify individuals who are at risk for loneliness, and provide remedies that can mitigate its effects at the individual as well as at the community level.

The Enablement and Guidance initiative is about sharing best practices with designers and developers around the world so new software is made to be accessible from the start.

To this end, IBM has been releasing open source accessibility tools and creating solutions that help automate the testing process. This helps alleviate roadblocks during the software development process, especially for those less familiar with accessibility issues. Their goal is to strengthen the accessibility of new solutions, but also to help reduce costs by ensuring the design and development is done correctly from the beginning.

 For example, IBM has released automated testing tools and best practices that cover mobile and web applications, including the Mobile Accessibility CheckerDynamic Assessment Plug-in, and the Digital Content Checker and Automated Accessibility Tester.

IBM’s focus on Technology and Innovation aims to spur the development of new products and services that make both the physical world and the world online more readily available to people of all abilities.

One example of these new technologies is Content Clarifier, which represents a powerful combination of machine learning, cognitive technologies and natural language processing. The system takes a long and complicated body of source content and dynamically filters out unnecessary information, replacing complex and recurring words or phrases, and converting it into something more understandable for the user. The content is essentially tailored to the specific needs of the individual.

 Additionally, IBM has also been working with Local Motors to create the world’s most accessible, self-driving vehicle (Accessible Olli). The goal is to advance the role technology can play in transforming transportation for the aging population as well as for individuals with disabilities.

Report: Digital Disruption in Healthcare is $8.7 Trillion Global Juggernaut

This month, Business Insider released a teaser of some of the top findings from its new report on digital disruption in healthcare. Its first finding? This juggernaut is now impossible to stop.

Whether patients and their doctors are ready or not, though, digital disruption in health care will only accelerate in the years ahead.

The scope of the report is comprehensive.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we analyze digital disruption in health care, looking at clinical operations and the role of electronic medical records. We identify the expanded scope of medical care and how patients will use health devices in their everyday lives, as well as survey the possible impediments to the digitization of health care in regulation, workflow resistance, and privacy concerns.

Here are some highlights from BI Intelligence’s report:

  • Digital is already disrupting health care in a number of sectors; electronic health record use is climbing and will near saturation as third parties figure out new and better ways to link and comb through that data.
  • Companies are developing all sorts of tools and equipment that doctors and nurses will use to gain new and greater insight into their patients, from connected scales to smart beds, and even augmented reality (AR) glasses.
  • There are clear hurdles to disruptive digital technology in health care, including regulation, staff buy-in, and privacy concerns. However, these barriers are starting to fall as the benefits of connected devices grow more apparent. 

The full BI Intelligence report promises to:

  • Explain the role of digital technology in medicine, and how it is and will continue to disrupt health care.
  • Provide an overview of disruption in clinical care, the health records space, and care in everyday life.
  • Analyze how the growth of digital health technologies will save time and reduce costs for the health care sector.

The full report can be Purchased & Downloaded or you can learn more about subscribing for an all-access pass to BI Intelligence.

Two Entrepreneurs Aim to Ease Aging with Music Therapy and Balance Training

This year, AARP partnered withMedCity News to select 50 entrepreneurs making a difference in the lives of the 50+ population.

Recently, MedCity News took a closer look at two of the winners.

SingFit [profiled by The Longevity Network last year] is a Los Angeles-based business using the power of music to engage and stimulate individuals with dementia, autism and traumatic brain injuries. Developed by a team of music therapists, speech therapists, activities directors and occupational therapists, the company’s approach to music therapy combines a scientific research on the health benefits of “prescribed singing” with a to mass distribute the benefits of music as medicine.

“We started with dementia and healthy cognitive aging because it’s where we saw the most pressing and unattended opportunity to transform healthcare through active music,” said Rachel Francine, SingFit cofounder and CEO.

Jim Cook is the CEO and cofounder of Nymbl Science, a company that developed a smartphone-based app that gives individuals aged 55-75 exercises to improve balance and assess their fall risk.

“We saw that by applying leading-edge mobile tech, we could directly affect people’s balance and mobility and health, and thereby contribute to a higher quality of life,” he said.

The 50 winners spanned everything from care coordination to wearables, and they are featured in the recently released eBook entitled 50+ Innovation Leaders, which can be downloaded in full here.

New Brunswick Launches Canada’s First Innovation Hub to Support Tech Solutions for Aging

The Canadian province of New Brunswick recently launched the country's first innovation hub focused on tech solutions for the aging.

The New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), in collaboration with the AGE–WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), is launching Advancing Policies and Practices in Technology and Aging (APPTA), an innovation hub dedicated to building tech that supports healthy aging.

AGE-WELL NCE said the APPTA hub, which officially opened on May 16 in Fredericton, will focus mainly on developing technologies and solutions for policy, program, and service challenges in the field of technology and aging. The hub is meant to allow Canadians to benefit from emerging technologies that foster independent living and improve the quality of life for aging adults.

The goal is to help entrepreneurs get to market with their products and services designed to support healthy aging.

Lisa Harris, New Brunswick’s minister of seniors and long-term care [said], “We are delighted to be the host province for a hub that will be a national resource for policymakers, researchers, clinicians, and others working to implement novel technologies that will improve the health and wellbeing of older Canadians and their caregivers.”

The APPTA hub will help entrepreneurs take their ideas to market by connecting them to end users, policymakers, and service providers. AGE-WELL NCE said it will also bring training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from the field of technology and aging. AGE-WELL and NBHRF will jointly fund the salaries of four individuals annually.

“This hub will promote knowledge-sharing and effective transfer of needed technologies right across Canada," [said] Bruno Battistini, president, CEO, and scientific director of NBHRF and a co-sponsor of the hub.