Time and again, we have found that technology does not replace the human interactions – but rather augments them to make experiences richer. For example, pure automation could result in emergency services being dispatched only to realize that they are not actually needed. Further, it can reduce the human-to-human connection that is central to the care of our most vulnerable populations.
At Philips Lifeline, we have a multitude of conversations with seniors every year – not to mention conversations with their care communities on their behalf. They call when they are lonely, when they are worried or confused and of course, when they’ve had an emergency. These emergency situations are a small fraction of the conversations our vulnerable populations want to have. Further, healthcare systems can ill afford unnecessary costs – and patients certainly don’t want the embarrassing or unnecessary stigma of an ambulance on their doorstep.
Although systems such as Alexa sound like a great solution in theory, we see them as an enabler for care versus a replacement. Even the seemingly self-explanatory statement ‘I need help’ (if one is able to verbalize their need) provides little context as to the degree of severity of the problem, or which party. Is the person in serious medical need, or do they simply need assistance calling a loved one or care giver, or are they just lonely as we find a lot of seniors tend to be? We have found that a low percentage of seniors who call for help need actual medical help, and at present technology isn’t yet advanced enough to allow a companion system to intervene effectively. There is also the added complication that users who need help may not realize exactly what type of help they need, so it is not as simple as just activating an automatic response and sending a medical responder to their aid as this may not be needed.
This is where an intermediary service comes into play. Acting as the ‘middle man’ between the user and the responder, the service is able to decipher the requests for help and, following protocol, can help according to the individuals request. Precision in the intervention is extremely important; often sending an immediate response isn’t necessary, when a home nurse visit or a friend checking in can be equally as effective.
Such a service is already provided by Philips Lifeline, to get help to seniors who have had a fall. When the GoSafe pendant worn by users senses a fall, the AutoAlert feature automatically places a call for help, alerting the Lifeline Response Center. This allows a Philips Lifeline Response Associate to quickly react, assessing the situation and taking the most appropriate action. Philips Lifeline will contact a neighbor, loved one, or emergency services – and will follow up to make sure that help has arrived.