Wireless Applications

Quinnipiac Researchers to Study Sensor Use for Seniors

December 4, 2008

The researchers will evaluate the potential benefits of Healthsense's wireless sensor technology for seniors in the Masonicare healthcare and retirement community.


MENDOTA HEIGHTS, MN & WALLINGFORD, CT--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new study launched by researchers at Quinnipiac University will attempt to determine whether seniors monitored by Healthsense, Inc.'s wireless sensor technology at the Masonicare healthcare and retirement community in Wallingford, CT, are able to remain independent for longer, delay being admitted to a hospital or nursing home, and better attend to their own basic daily needs. Healthsense is an aging services technology company based in Mendota Heights, MN.

The two-year study is the first of its kind in the New England area and among the first nationally to specifically examine whether integrated sensor technology can help seniors age safely and comfortably in their own homes, according to Jim Albert, Masonicare's Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Information Services. Masonicare is the largest senior-focused healthcare system in Connecticut, as well as one of the largest such systems in the country.

"There's very little research on the value of using sensors to reduce, eliminate or delay hospitalization, nursing home admission or emergency room visits by providing earlier detection of incidents or potential incidents that might lead to harm," Albert said. "The benefits of the technology are potentially enormous, not just in improving the health and quality of life of seniors, but also in reducing the cost of aging services. By helping keep residents safe and secure in their own homes for longer, the technology potentially could have significant cost benefits for seniors, their families, providers and payers."

The Quinnipiac researchers will study two groups of approximately 34 residents housed in independent and assisted living residences on the Masonicare campus. One group consists of seniors living in residences equipped with Healthsense's eNeighbor® resident monitoring system; the other group is made up of residents who do not have the technology in their homes. Quinnipiac is a private university in Hamden, Conn.

"The first goal of the research is fairly simple: we want to see if there is any difference between the two groups over the two-year span of the study in terms of admissions to hospitals and/or nursing homes," said Catherine Meriano, Professor of Occupational Therapy at Quinnipiac University and one of the study's lead investigators. "Second, we'll compare the two groups to see how they fare from a functionality standpoint—for example, whether residents with access to the sensor technology are able to maintain their activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing and cooking, for longer."

Developed with grants from the National Institutes of Aging (NIA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the eNeighbor System employs a wide range of sensors in seniors' residences to "learn" their daily activities and detect unexplained changes in their behavior that may indicate a need for assistance. These include tilt sensors on medicine boxes to monitor medication usage; motion detectors on walls to detect movement within rooms; contact sensors on kitchen cupboards and refrigerator doors to monitor whether the resident is eating regularly; toilet sensors to monitor toilet usage; pressure sensors on beds to detect when a resident gets in or out of bed, and home-or-away sensors that can detect when the resident leaves or returns to the residence. Using algorithms to predict residents' behavior based on their individual habits and lifestyle, eNeighbor's "smart" operating system analyzes the correlated data from the sensors to determine whether the resident requires assistance and automatically issues alerts when the data indicate help is needed.

"Masonicare chose the Healthsense technology because Healthsense offers a much broader variety of sensors than their competitors," said Albert. "This greater variety of sensors adds an extra dimension to our ability to track ADLs and potentially will help us make better-informed decisions on when and whether to intervene to ensure the health and well-being of our residents. We believe it's a much more accurate and robust system."

The Healthsense technology is specifically designed to help senior living providers meet the demands of caring for the nation's rapidly growing elderly population, said Brian Bischoff, Healthsense's President and CEO. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 35 million Americans over 65 in 2000. Due to the retiring baby boom generation and an anticipated increase in overall life expectancy, by 2020 there will be more than 54 million people 65 and older. And by 2030, more than 70 million Americans—one out of every five—will be 65 years or older. That's compared to roughly one in eight in 2005.

"We need to look to technology for help because there will just not be enough human caregivers to tend to this enormous elderly population," said Bischoff. "Sensor technology can never take the place of skilled and compassionate care by a human caregiver, but we're confident the research will show that it can help healthcare professionals—like the dedicated staff at Masonicare—improve the quality of care they provide to residents, while at the same time significantly reducing the cost of aging."

About Healthsense
Healthsense is a market leader in providing technology solutions for the future of aging services. Healthsense offers completely integrated systems including: personal emergency response systems, Wi-Fi wireless nurse call and resident monitoring for fall detection, wander management and alerting of changes in well-being. These systems are scalable, flexible, and based on proven Wi-Fi communication standards. The flagship Healthsense product is the eNeighbor® system, which was developed under the direction of the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The system monitors an individual in their home and automatically calls for help if it detects a possible problem. The eNeighbor system utilizes a series of wireless sensors placed throughout the residence, which capture the occupant's activities of daily living.

About Masonicare
Wallingford-based Masonicare is Connecticut's leading not-for-profit provider of senior healthcare and retirement living communities. Masonicare's continuum of care includes independent and assisted living, skilled nursing and dementia care, geriatric assessment, inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, acute hospital care, home health and hospice care, as well as community education.

About Quinnipiac University
Quinnipiac is a private, coeducational, nonsectarian institution located 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston. The university enrolls 5,600 full-time undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students in 51 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs of study in its School of Business, School of Communications, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, School of Law, College of Arts and Sciences and College of Professional Studies. Quinnipiac consistently ranks among the top universities with master's programs in the Northern region in U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges. The 2009 issue of U.S. News and World Report's America's Best Colleges named Quinnipiac as the top up-and-coming school with master's programs in the North. Quinnipiac also is recognized in Princeton Review's The Best 368 Colleges.


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