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Modern Medical Alert Systems: Expert Interview

Medical alert systems

Sombit Mishra is the Founder and CEO of QMedic, a modern medical alert service that helps members get the right services at the right time. We sat down with Sombit to learn about the capabilities of today's medical alert systems – and also to see what's in store for the future of this industry.

Modern Medical Alert Systems: How are they different from the past?

What makes QMedic's medical alert system different from its competitors?

QMedic provides all the traditional features of medical alert systems for seniors while adding much more proactive capability: 24/7 motion monitoring, sleep monitoring, wear compliance, and real-time alerts for family and professional caregivers. Unlike traditional services, QMedic is able to monitor changes in activity and sleep patterns against a user's baseline, which is critical to identifying potential problems and escalating wellness checks.

QMedic is also different in that we are a very software-driven service, where we can route and provision services from any care provider based on the context of two-way voice calls and behaviors we detect. In contrast, most medical alert services are hardware-driven and cannot dynamically route and provision services based on the specific needs or context of the user.

Related: QMedic Review: A smart medical alert system

What do you think is the biggest difference between the perception and the reality of medical alert devices?

The biggest misconception about medical alert is that the emergency room is an efficient form of care for the majority of people. The reality is that most people don't need the emergency room when they call for help. Traditional medical alert services are designed to either route to the ER or do nothing. In reality, there is so much opportunity to service consumers in between these two extremes.

Is there any research to demonstrate the effectiveness of medical alert systems?

At best, medical alert devices save lives and get people to timely care services when they need them. At worst, these services fail to respond to the user's needs in time, which is no worse than if you had no medical alert or were otherwise unable to provision help. In this regard, medical alert services add value for users who are frail, at high risk of falls and/or health decline, and need a way to provision help conveniently.

Historically, where medical alert services have proven less effective is in routing and matching urgent non-emergency needs of consumers to the right care services. Given 71% of emergency room visits are unnecessary, it's critical for the medical alert industry to become more proactive in supporting urgent non-emergency needs of consumers.

Generally speaking, how much resistance is there from elderly people to the idea of using or wearing a medical alert device?

The decision to use, adopt, and utilize medical alert services with consistency correlates highly with the frailty, health risks, and situational context of a user. We typically find users are most amenable to medical alert services when they've had a recent health episode or hospitalization, or have experienced the death of a spouse or loved one recently. Also, we see greater adoption among users who live alone.

Other barriers to adoption vary based on personal affinity for bracelets and neck pendants. Typically, we see less resistance among those who are frailer and in need of help with activities of daily living (e.g. eating, walking, dressing, toileting, bathing, etc.).

Are medical alert systems a good idea even if the elderly person lives with a caregiver?

It varies based on the live-in caregiver's schedule. If they are full-time at home caregivers for the user, these circumstances diminish the need for medical alert services. However, most caregivers are juggling so many different tasks, have jobs outside the home, have to run errands, and cannot always be with their loved ones/patients. In these circumstances, medical alert services have a lot of value, and this use case is becoming increasingly common (i.e. growing aging population, fewer caregivers per older adult).

Under what circumstances might a senior citizen wear a medical alert device if he or she lives in an assisted living facility or nursing home?

Ultimately, the reasons would be similar to those living at home. The objective would be to help them age in place vs. transition their care to another residence or hospital.

At what point should loved ones consider purchasing medical alert systems for an elderly person?

Typically, if one or more of the following conditions is met, a person is a good candidate for medical alert:

1) He/she lives alone and/or recently experienced the death of a spouse/loved one.
2) He/she experienced a recent health episode (e.g. fall, stroke, seizure, heart attack, worsening chronic condition, hospitalization, etc.).
3) He/she needs assistance with one or more activities of daily living: eating, bathing, dressing, transitioning/walking, going to the bathroom.
4) He/she retains at least reasonable cognitive function and can press the help button if needed. (We find that advanced dementia patients face extraordinary challenges that typically require more in-person supervision.)

What do you foresee for the future of the medical alert device industry?

The future of medical alert is in software-driven services, not hardware and panic buttons alone. What Amazon has done for consumer services with Amazon Echo, QMedic aims to do for the senior market. Our objective is to minimize unnecessary ER admissions and help people get the right services at the right time at a lower cost to the care network. These services could include nurse triage, palliative care, telepsychiatry, non-emergency medical transportation, grocery delivery, peer networking, and more. You are seeing an explosion of services for the younger consumer market: Uber, DoorDash, InstaCart, etc. If these types of services can be integrated into medical alert while maintaining simplicity and affordability for users, this will be the next frontier in this industry.

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Comments

  1. Great post from Sombit. I wonder if there is any way to create an app that could work with a device that plugs into the headphone jack? Most of the seniors I know have cell phones already, seems redundant to carry another device, like carrying a smart phone and a calculator –

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