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Thursday, March 14, 2013

AT&T's mobile personal emergency response system will provide fall detection for seniors and allow them to connect with caregivers using machine-to-machine technology

AT&T is developing a mobile personal emergency response system (MPERS) to help elderly people when they fall. The platform will use GPS functionality and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to connect patients remotely to medical professionals at monitoring centers.
 

The company is collaborating with Valued Relationships, Inc. (VRI) and Numera on the service. VRI provides telehealth monitoring and medical alert systems to seniors, the chronically ill and patients with disabilities. Numera manufactures a Libris MPERS device that works with monitoring software to remotely manage two-way voice, automatically detect falls and track seniors' location.

"With the MPERS mobility solution AT&T is developing, older people will be able to live independently but know that they are only seconds away from assistance if the need arises," Dr. Geeta Nayyar, AT&T's chief medical information officer, said in a statement.

AT&T will offer the MPERS as a managed service as well as provide wireless connectivity and sales, marketing and customer support.

Announced on March 4, the MPERS use two-way wireless voice communication to allow patients and caregivers to connect using the MPERS. The platform is designed for elderly people with disabilities, those prone to falls and people that need emergency connectivity to caregivers while still living independently.

One out of three adults ages 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 to 30 percent of falls result in moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, hip fractures or head traumas.

The wireless company will market the service to nursing agencies, day care services and home health care providers.

AT&T demonstrated the MPERS platform in New Orleans at the HIMSS13 conference, organized by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

The MPERS device's GPS functionality will report on a patient's location every 3 to 5 minutes, said Eleanor Chye, assistant vice president for AT&T ForHealth, told eWEEK in an email.

"Should a person fall while wearing the sensor, built-in technology will detect it and automatically alert a monitoring call center," said Chye. "A professional from the call monitoring center will reach out to the individual through instant two-way wireless voice communication on AT&T's network."

Several wireless devices on the market can help seniors when they fall. They include iLoc Technologies' TriLoc Personal Locator Device and the Philips Lifeline GoSafe MPERS.

"When falls and acute medical events (such as heart attacks or strokes) occur, each second that passes matters," said Chye. "Individuals need to be able to immediately alert emergency services and their caregivers when these critical moments happen."

AT&T also worked with VRI to develop a remote-monitoring platform (RPM), which went to market in September 2012. The RPM allows nurses at VRI's telemonitoring facility to monitor patients' vital data, including blood pressure, weight and pulse.

"Having access to additional data through the end-to-end RPM solution, such as a patient's blood sugar levels, weight, and blood pressure, could give providers invaluable information about what triggered the fall," Chye said.

The two platforms could work together to "help provide a clearer picture of what's really going on with a patient when they are outside the four walls of a hospital," said Chye.

Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.Follow him on Twitter: @bthorowitz

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