For seniors wanting to 'age gracefully at home,' there's Virtual Health

By Eric Wicklund
09:19 AM

Developers of a subscription-based telehealth service launched today in New York say it will give the nation’s ever-growing ranks of seniors the ability to “age gracefully at home.”

Virtual Health executives announced the company’s launch at a press conference this morning in New York City, unveiling a platform of IT tools and technology designed to allow seniors to, among other things, keep track of their vital signs, communicate with caregivers and healthcare providers, receive health and wellness tips, arrange to have meals delivered and deal with certain financial issues.

“We want to deliver the assisted living experience directly to the home at a fraction of the cost of assisted living,” said Alex Go, who helped develop Intel’s telehealth offerings before becoming Virtual Health’s chief executive officer.

Go pointed out that most telehealth services for home-bound seniors aren’t currently reimbursed by health plans or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, yet studies show that most seniors would prefer to live at home rather than in a housing complex or some other assisted-living facility.

“Investors are clamoring to recognize a new model of care for aging-in-place seniors,” he said. “We decided, why wait until health plans or CMS begins to reimburse for these services? Let’s start with a concierge-type program and see where it goes.”

Virtual Living, which will launch initially in New York, will deploy the FDA-approved Care Innovations Guide platform, developed by Care Innovations, the telehealth collaborative formed by tech giants Intel and GE. The Guide is designed to allow providers to remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs at home, including blood pressure, weight and blood-glucose levels, as well as giving the patient a video-conferencing link.

In addition, Virtual Health is partnering with SeniorBridge, a New York-based national care management company with an employee base of nurses, home health aides and clinical social workers; Dinewise, a Farmingdale, N.Y.-based national distributor of fully-prepared meals; and the Lifecare Funding Group, which assists people in need of funds to cover the costs of senior housing and long-term care.

"Personalized healthcare is the way of the future," said Bradford Perkins, co-founder and chairman of Perkins Eastman and a special advisor and board member to the company, in a press release supplied by Virtual Health. "Solutions such as Virtual Health will become increasingly important as more and more seniors aim to age at home gracefully and remain active for as long as possible. The combination of state-of-the-art technology and a responsive national care network will make Virtual Health a valuable addition to the marketplace."

Go said the plan to is offer Virtual Health care plans, starting at about 10 percent of the costs of an assisted living contract, to New York-area residents first, then roll out the program nationwide by the holidays. He also expects to add more partners, including companies offering financial estate planning, transportation services and medication refills.

Among the early users of the Virtual Health platform is Selma Farrago, a New York resident involved through SeniorBridge.

“My independence is important to me, so I was eager to be a part of an early market trial for the Virtual Health system,” said Farrago, in a press release. “After using the Virtual Health system for just a few days, the clinician called to say she noticed a spike in my blood pressure and suggested I contact my primary care physician.”

“My doctor told me that we averted a potential health crisis by catching that early,” she added. “Having the system in my home makes me comfortable that I am getting the best care possible.”

Go said he hopes to branch out the service to high-risk pregnant women, new parents and others in need of a structured care plan while staying at home.

“We’re offering mobility solutions for people who want to live at home,” he said. “We see that as a great growth opportunity.”