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A patient monitor startup strives to improve communication and reduce re-admissions

10:25 am by | 0 Comments

A digital health company has developed a Web-based patient monitor program for PCs and mobile devices designed to help home health aides, caregivers and institutional care facilities like nursing homes keep a log of physical and behavioral health of the elderly and people with chronic illnesses. The health IT program is designed to provide an effective system to generate actionable data, flag changes in health patterns earlier and improve communication.

Patient monitoring market

With the steady stream of baby boomers entering retirement combined with the need to improve monitoring of chronic conditions to reduce hospitalization and readmissions, the patient monitoring market is expected to grow to $20.9 billion by 2016.

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Robert Herzog is the CEO of eCaring, which won the Startupalooza competition in New York earlier this month. He initially formed the current model for the program in 2009 because of his own experience with his mother, from at-home care to her eventual transition to a care facility. It was almost impossible to provide a clear picture of day-to-day changes in her physical condition and behavioral health, he said.

“There’s a tremendous frustration. At a certain point, you’re handing over the keys of your parents’ house to a stranger and it’s essentially a black box — you have no way to register whether your loved one is getting the care you paid for.”

CareTracker

The program is designed to let aides or caregivers record not only clinical data but behavioral health as well. The CareTracker’s icons are used to indicate the time a person has eaten, used the toilet, exercised, and his or her mood and energy level. It also uses more subtle gauges for mood like reading, worship, listening to music. The information is used to help establish a baseline for what’s normal for that person to facilitate earlier intervention to avoid problems at home.

The icons representing different activities and moods are a critical component for the program as a means to overcome any communication problems between the patients, their families and home health aides. Herzog said in the process of getting the feedback of these aides, they added suggestions for icons missing from the program like a symbol that indicates the patient has been moved to avoid bedsores and whether the patient has been crying.

“We are the only company that generates integrated clinical and behavioral data,” Herzog said. “One goal is to more rapidly identify potentially life-threatening issues like a fall or slurred speech earlier, along with clinical data like weight gain for cardiac care, or turning down meals.”

The information can be viewed in the CareJournal, which gives comprehensive information to institutional living managers or family members on activities, conditions, and the mental and physical state of a home care recipient. The CareJournal keeps track of what’s going on and alerts caregivers to any special problems.

Institutional program

The company has also been developing an institutional care model, which until now has been primarily a paper and phone-based system. The program will be used in pilot programs this fall at institutions such as Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn  and Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan, where it is working on a program to reduce readmissions of heart care patients.

Expansion plans

There are currently 11 to 12 people in the company, but that number could triple next year when the rollout of the eCaring programs starts. The icon-led CareTracker means there is scope for the program not only in the U.S. but internationally as well.

Other plans down the road include programs tailored to low-income households and a concierge service for delivering prescription refills, providing transportation and drugstore supplies. Herzog says he’s also exploring expanding the eCaring program to foster homes and veterans hospitals.

Herzog said his company is open to partnerships with companies offering complementary services like telehealth.

Innovative healthcare technology geared for the over-50 set is available, but insiders working in the industry see scope for much more. The American Association for Retired Persons is involved with a couple of competitions to encourage entrepreneurs to develop innovative products for this demographic. It has added a live pitch event to its annual AARP Health Innovation@50+ conference scheduled for Sept. 21 in New Orleans with winners getting the opportunity to meet with investors privately. In an interview earlier this year with Jody Holtzman, the senior vice president of thought leadership at the AARP, he said the organization wants to foster greater dialogue between entrepreneurs and the investment community to increase innovation. To that end it has been working with Health 2.0 and healthcare startup accelerators like Rock Health and Health Box, and other initiatives.

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for MedCityNews.com. She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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