One of the most serious problems in taking care of the elderly, disabled or those with a chronic disease is getting them to take their medicine or participate in their care because of feelings of isolation, confusion, sadness or depression.
Those failures cause unnecessary hospital admissions and emergency visits that drive up healthcare costs and lead to poorer outcomes or untimely deaths.
But new technologies and devices that meld telemedicine with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are giving hope for greater care coordination to thousands and potentially millions of people in the healthcare system.
Dan Pompilio, CEO of SimpleC, an Atlanta-based healthcare technology company that earlier this year signed a joint venture contract with Jems Technology of Orion Township, tells this story about an elderly patient who used SimpleC's "Companion," a smart software program that encourages patients to stick to their medical care plan.
John, an aging 6-foot-5-inch former offensive lineman on Michigan State University's football team who suffered from dementia, was living in an assisted living facility in Atlanta. Day after day, John sat alone in a community room, hardly talking. Providers were intimidated by him, and family members were worried. Caregivers know patients in this condition go downhill fast.
Jason Zamer, a SimpleC clinician, met with John once a week in a therapy session. He introduced him to the Companion software and slowly taught him how to use it on a computer. Zamer added pictures from John's past, including his old MSU football team and the fight song "Victory for MSU."
After a few sessions, John began to respond, first using a few words, then speaking in complete sentences.
"Then, one day, Jason walked in," Pompilio said. "He saw Jason, looked in his eyes, stood up, and sang the Michigan State fight song. Everybody in the place knew that it was more than a good day. For us, it was a turning point.
The SimpleC Companion — one of a new generation of artificial intelligence-enhanced software programs — can be installed on handheld devices like smartphones or tablets, desktops or laptop computers, said Kevin Lasser, CEO of Jems, who does business development, sales and marketing for SimpleC. Jems also manufactures telehealth devices securely transmits video images and data on patients from ambulances, emergency rooms, skilled nursing facilities and prisons.
A growing number of companies in Southeast Michigan and Canada are either signing agreements to purchase Companion or entering into pilot projects to test the technology. The licensing cost is $119 per patient with volume discounting, Lasser said. Companion is sold in 15 states with more than 2,000 users.