CareStrong connects with people in the community
Allied health services provider HealthStrong has launched a new service as part of its CareStrong community care division, introducing touchscreen-based technology to assist older people or people with disabilities to remain independent in their homes or retirement villages for longer.
Called CareStrong Connect, the service is an internet-based solution to reduce social isolation and is already in use in the US and Germany. Designed to be used with touchscreen or mouse-operated tablets and PCs, CareStrong Connect is aimed at keeping people connected to friends and family and to provide access to a range of services using video and phone technology.
It has also been designed with the assistance of geriatricians to ensure that older people and those with disabilities who cannot manage a keyboard and mouse or are not computer savvy can be kept connected with carers and families, be entertained or connect to a full range of services.
HealthStrong's product development manager for CareStrong Connect, Owen Nathan, said the technology was especially good for touchscreen-based devices. The interface involves large buttons that have been colour-coded for ease of use to the non-tech savvy or those with physical impairments.
It has full video conferencing capability and the potential to be connected wirelessly to a range of health and environmental monitoring devices.
“It is an internet-based platform which was designed for communication and information – giving people access to information and services,” Mr Nathan said.
“The product was designed originally more around the communication and entertainment side – you can look up the weather, store photos, send an email and play games – but we wanted to make it more usable for the Australian market and the resources we could offer, so we customised the product to suit our needs.”
As HealthStrong runs a 24-hour call centre for its allied health and telehealth services into aged care facilities, the company has been able to add new resources to the device, including the ability to connect with the call centre for access to a complete range of health and lifestyle services.
“We basically set it up as a concierge,” Mr Nathan said. “If they need home improvements they can get access to a range of home maintenance services like plumbers or electricians. They can come through to our call centre so we act as their PA, as a conduit to services.”
There is also a video conferencing capability, which allows users to simply touch a photo of family members or carers, and a video call is automatically made. Voice-recorded email capability has been added so people can record an email rather than type one out, and text-to-voice technology can read an email to the user should they have vision impairment.
There is also the ability to connect to pharmacies and allied health services from home, allowing users to connect with their pharmacist to order medication refills or to book a home visit from an allied health professional.
For pharmacy, the service works in two ways, Mr Nathan said. “We have our own retail pharmacy and they can press a button and get a new delivery.
“But many people have a long-term relationship with their pharmacist, so rather than get a taxi to the pharmacy, wait for the prescription to be filled and then taxi home, they can contact their own pharmacy to arrange a pick up or delivery. They can use our pharmacy or their own pharmacy and they can communicate with them through the software.”
The technology also has a brain gym section called Happy Neuron, offering not just card games and the like but evidence-based interactive neurological exercises that are designed to keep the mind active.
Other services that can be connected via the CareStrong Connect services are shopping, grooming, transport and meals.
“We could also stream a church service every Sunday morning to the resident in the comfort of their home or customise the software depending on the individual’s requirements,” Mr Nathan said.
HealthStrong CEO Stanley Sack said the introduction of the technology was part of the move towards consumer-directed care (CDC), which aims to retain older people's independence and more choice of services.
Mr Sack said CareStrong Connect is predominantly being marketed to providers of community care and aged care packages, especially the large not-for-profits that have been the driving force behind consumer-directed care.
The next two stages of the technology's development will also be aimed at this sector. Advanced medical monitoring services are planned, as the platform can interoperate with medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, weight scales and glucometers.
The company is also looking at providing full environmental monitoring, allowing CareStrong Connect to interact with sensors for utilities like hot water and gas, as well as motion sensors around the bedside and automatic security applications.
Mr Nathan said the main market will be organisations that manage aged care packages such as HACC, but also retirement villages and for older and disabled people or those with chronic conditions living in rural and remote areas.
“There is also an opportunity in residential aged care, where residents often find it difficult to communicate with loved ones,” Mr Nathan said. “We could offer an adapted version of this without the care services, because they are already provided, but it will allow residents to lie in bed and have a video conference with their families.
“They can also send emails and play card games, whatever they want to do, and it is touchscreen, which is a huge difference to using a PC set up in a common room. There is also the opportunity for conferencing with a nurse and doctor, almost like a telehealth solution.”
Posted in Aged Care