For seniors seeking to keep their independence, Independa offers Angela

By Eric Wicklund
09:36 AM

Seniors struggling to deal with healthcare concerns while living independently will soon have a new friend to call upon – Angela.

“Angela” is an interactive telecare platform launched by Independa, a San Diego-based provider of telehealth solutions for home care-based settings and caregivers. Described as “the next Wii or iPad for the golden generation,” it’s designed to not only provide entertainment and a communications platform for seniors living independently, but also to maintain a vital link to caregivers.

“Our vision as a company is to replace ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ with a social interaction solution,” said Independa’s CEO, Kian Saneii. “The number one issue for the elderly is social isolation. … This offers a version of supported independence.”

Running on an off-the-shelf touch-screen tablet, Angela offers secure, one-touch access to a variety of interactive content, including the Internet, Facebook, games and puzzles, video chat and e-mail. It follows the company’s January launch of Smart Reminders, which allows caregivers to set up automatic reminders for care receivers to take medications, keep medical and social appointments and record “Life Stories.” Later this year, the platform will include sensor-based connectivity.

Angela is specifically designed for older adults, with larger screen fonts, higher contrast and brighter colors.
While the social benefits of Angela are apparent, the clinical effects are there as well. The nation pays approximately $3,000 per episode of care for the elderly, Saneii said. In addition, he said, approximately half of all prescriptions written for seniors are not filled, and one-third of those that are filled are never taken, many because they’re forgotten.

“We’re opening up the world to a lot of individuals who want to live alone but need help doing so,” he said.
“Traditional telehealth boxes and computers are last-decade clumsy approaches to helping older adults, providers and caregivers,” said Laurie Orlov, founder of the market research firm Aging in Place Technology Watch. “Twenty-first century solutions will look more like the integrated engagement and wellness platforms of new firms like Independa and its ‘Angela.’”

“User-friendly technology solutions that encourage social engagement are essential in preserving independence for older adults,” added Richard Della Penna, Independa’s chief medical officer. “While often overlooked, isolation is the number one issue for the elderly, as it commonly triggers depression and physical illnesses, which can hasten the move to less-independent living and shorten life.”

Saneii is quick to point out that Angela is a social engagement platform and not a telemedicine solution. Its purpose is to collect information and improve communications, but “not to diagnose.” “The healthcare system doesn’t need us to become part of the system,” he said.

What it does need, he said, is a platform that allows seniors – as well as others living in some sort of supported independence – to communicate with friends, relatives and caregivers easily and effectively, even if they don’t know how to log on to a computer.

Among the early adopters of Independa’s technology is LivHOME, a Los Angeles-based provider of in-home senior care services.

“We believe that technology is going to play a key role in providing consistent high-level senior in-home care at an affordable price,” said Mike Nicholson, the company’s chief executive officer. “We feel that Independa has the best-in-class solution to date. Over the two years we have followed their development of care monitoring, medication reminders and other technology solutions, LivHOME has been excited about the prospect of offering the Independa solution to our established national locations and our growing franchise markets. With the launch of Angela, we are proud to be able to offer it as a component of the LivHOME solution to our thousands of clients across the country.”

According to Saneii, Angela will be deployed for beta testing in July and should be ready for commercial use by September, at which time Independa will begin beta testing its sensor connectivity solution. Plans call for an option of 10-inch or 22-inch tablets, with the software available for a monthly subscription; tablet pricing will be determined later.

“Angela is the latest building block in the integrated suite of solutions Independa is rolling out to help family members and home-care professionals stay in touch with and watch over care recipients when they can’t be with them,” he said. “Elderly care recipients can use simple, fun tools, and those looking after them need practical solutions that are easy to use and don’t require their own care. Angela meets all those needs, and adds essential social elements.”