When Dan Chavez’s father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in July 2010, the family thought Chavez — whose background is in health care information technology — would be best suited to be the caregiver.
“I didn’t know health care until I had to manage it every day for six months,” he said. “You figure out how much you don’t know.”
Today Chavez is vice president of marketing at Independa Inc., a San Diego-based technology company poised to redesign the way elderly patients stay fit.
“I’m very passionate about older adult care because I saw the challenges my father and my family had," he said. "Sharing information is a big part of that.”
Independa made its splash at the Digital Health Summer Summit at the Omni San Diego Hotel last month.
The summit, which aims to solve problems plaguing health care by connecting medicine and technology, is traditionally part of the wildly popular Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every January. For the first time, a summer version of the event was tacked on to speed up the quest of making digital health enable better health.
“There’s an opportunity for connectivity to play a key role in health,” said Kian Saneii, chief executive officer of Independa. “If people are connected and data is connected, health improves if you apply the right type of application.”
His company is boarding that connectivity boom in health care to help elderly people live at their residence longer, safer and more comfortably. Its main product, which has been in development for the past three years, is a web app that enables caregivers to watch over and monitor their loved ones from remote locations.
“There are lots of apps focused on adults but that’s just a slice," Chavez said. "We focus on the person’s physical, emotional and spiritual well being and apply technology to all those things.”
The app features a variety of reminders, for getting dressed, going to an appointment, brushing teeth, paying bills or weather updates.
“If you had a knee replacement you don’t want to go out on wet pavement,” said Chavez, while demoing the app.
The comprehensive app started being shipped at the end of June.
“We have a lot of backed up demand. We are selling to home health, home care, senior living facilities and home plans," Chavez said.
Caregivers drive the whole system with a browser-based application that provides live updates on how their loved one is doing.
Elderly patients don’t need computer skills to use the system. Reminders go out for medications, doctor appointments and other events through a standard telephone. The system alerts caregivers about the status through an online dashboard, text massages, email video or phone call alerts.
The system includes “Angela,” a wireless touch pad along with “Artemis,” a suite of wireless health devices and home sensors.
“Health information can be loaded in a transparent way,” said Chavez, adding that the obtrusion factor is minimized. “It’s all about connectivity.”
If the person steps on a scale, for example, there’s no need for a nurse to record the weight; it’s automatically loaded into the system. Sensors transmit the information to the cloud and from there, the right people are notified.
Independa announced a partnership recently with Qualcomm Inc. (Nadsaq: QCOM), a pioneer in the digital health care space.
“Qualcomm has played an incredible role in creating an ecosystem and momentum around the concept of connectivity,” Saneii said.
His company will incorporate the 2net Platform from Qualcomm Life Inc. to link a variety of its Artemis health monitoring devices through a cloud.
For instance, the patient can measure the oxygenation of their hemoglobin via a pulse oximeter and the results will be transmitted wirelessly through the network.
A panic button with GPS capabilities will also be integrated into Independa system, which is ideal for wandering Alzheimer’s patients and sends alerts via phone call or text.
Alerts check on activities, environment or health measures and are color coded depending on the nature of the issue. A red alert, for instance, would be sent to the caregiver’s email and phone.
”For instance, if you get up every day at 8:30 a.m. but if you are not out of bed by 9:30 a.m., it can send an alert," he said.
Biometric measures like losing or gaining too much weight would be noted.
If the user takes a certain medication, the app reminds patients about dosage and when to take the medicine. A timeline on the Angela screen shows when to take medicine at what time.
The system is not just about sending grandpa reminders to take his pills, however; the system also encourages interaction and cognitive exercises.
“Social engagement is a big deal," Chavez said. "The problem of aging in place is isolation and loneliness. How do you address that? Through connectivity."
The tablet features elderly-friendly large icons and fonts. Users can play games, surf the web, check news websites and even manage finances.
A photo feature allows family members to share events, like graduations or vacations, with their parent or grandparent who's unable to attend.
Users can record memos, life stories and memories. One popular topic of discussion is “How did you meet mom?”
“They say these things in their voice and inflection can be shared on flash drive or Facebook,” he said.
In addition to the $2.35 million the company has raised to date, Independa announced in September that it had received $200,000 in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank (NASDAQ: SIVB).
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