Epic at work on new tech to avert falls

Kaiser ready to roll out across the country
By Bernie Monegain
10:34 AM
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Healthcare IT giant Epic is working on a clinical decision tool aimed at helping healthcare providers reduce the risk of falls in unsteady patients. The technology is expected to be ready and available to Epic's EHR clients by year's end.

Longtime Epic customer Kaiser Permanente will roll out the tool at its facilities across the country and will also make its evidence-based falls prevention program widely available to other health systems and health plans.

The technology is called STEADI, an acronym for Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries. The tool is being designed based on CDC's guidelines for falls assessment. The goal is to make it easier for healthcare providers to screen for falls, intervene to reduce risk and provide follow-up care.

The announcement came at the end of a White House Fact Sheet released this morning regarding The White House Conference on Aging, which President Barack Obama is hosting today.

The sweeping conference agenda focuses on issues facing Americans as they plan for retirement. Many of the measures proposed build on the Affordable Care Act and on efforts to improve Medicare and Medicaid.

"In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security, the White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these programs, highlight new actions to support Americans as we age and focus on the powerful role that technology can play in the lives of older Americans in the decade ahead," the White House announced.

Federal data to be released

The Administration announced that by September 2015, federal data sets relevant to aging and to elderly Americans would be made easily available on Data.gov, the repository for the U.S. government's open data. This resource will continuously be updated with datasets on aging, much like it is for other important Administration priorities such as climate, public safety and education. 

[See also: 16 healthcare data-driven geeks to watch.]

Health IT efforts

Like Epic's several of the planned initiatives surrounding the aging initiative have healthcare IT underpinnings. These are put forward by the private sector:

  • As part of its annual HackFest, LeadingAge, an association of 6,000 not-for-profit organizations and businesses representing a broad field of aging services, will partner with Hewlett-Packard using HP's 3D immersive computing platform and Federal open data to challenge innovators to create technology-driven tools to improve the lives of older adults and their families.
  • The employer coalition ReACT (Respect a Caregiver's Time), Care.com and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are joining forces to generate the tools employers need to effectively support employees who are caregivers. MIT and Care.com will jointly conduct a case study based on MIT's approach to employer-supported elder care. 
  • Uber is announcing pilot programs in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Arizona and California that will partner with senior community centers and other advocates to provide free technology tutorials and free or discounted rides to older Americans to increase access to transportation options and support mobility and independence.
  • Airbnb has conducted research to support and understand the experience of older Americans in their travels and in their use of technology and is partnering with communities to enhance accessibility and the user experience for older populations. 
  • Walgreens has made advancements in its digital technologies to connect individuals with its telehealth services provider, which offers 24/7 access to U.S. board-certified doctors.  Seniors also can track their health behavior with personal wellness smartphone technologies from Walgreens and WebMD.
  • Peapod has adopted "best in class" Web accessibility standards to ensure that all individuals, including those with disabilities and those who are unable to shop at traditional stores, can use its website and mobile applications. 
  • Honor, a tech-enabled company that matches seniors with care professionals, will offer $1 million in free home care across 10 cities in the country and work with established care providing organizations in those communities to ensure this care goes to helping older Americans. 
  • The University of Washington's School of Nursing and the HEALTH-E (Home-based Environmental Assisted Living Technologies for Healthy Elders) initiative are introducing an Aging and Technology Laboratory, which includes hardware and software tools to support participatory design of technology for older adults.  The laboratory will allow scientists, engineers, and others to engage older adults and their families to accelerate the generation of new solutions to support aging.
  • The Stanford Center on Longevity will develop a State of Longevity Index to be released in early 2016 that will measure how well the U.S. is doing to improve the prospects for long-term well-being in financial security, physical health, social connectedness, educational attainment, and age-friendly communities. 
  • IDEO is announcing the launch of "The Powerful Now," a project to build a cross-sector collaboration around positive aging for all.

[See also: Understanding health IT's role in caring for Boomers.]

Among the planned government initiatives are.

  • Facilitating state efforts to provide workplace-based retirement saving opportunities: About a third of the workforce lacks access to a workplace retirement plan, the White House notes. That's why, in every budget since taking office, the President has put forth proposals to provide access for 30 million Americans to workplace-based retirement savings by requiring employers not currently offering a retirement plan to automatically enroll their workers in an IRA.  But in the absence of Congressional action, the states are leading the charge.
  • Launching Aging.gov – today: The intent is to provide older Americans, their families, friends and other caregivers, a one-stop resource for government-wide information on helping older adults live independent and fulfilling lives.
  • Modernizing federal rules that affect long-term care, healthy aging and elder justice: Steps announced today include: a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed rule to update, for the first time in nearly 25 years, the quality and safety requirements for more than 15,000 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities to improve quality of life, enhance person-centered care and services for residents in nursing homes, improve resident safety, and bring these regulatory requirements into closer alignment with current professional standards.