Episode 41: The LivWell Health Series: Leveraging Metrics and Personalized Care to Keep Older Adults Healthy and Safe at Home

Today’s featured guest is Richard Jackson from Riverside Health System. Rick is the Executive Director of the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health, which helps older adults and their families make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

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Episode 40: The LivWell Health Series: Digitizing Tedious Paper-Based Workflows and Referrals in a Large Health Care System with Sharie Torres

Episode 40: The LivWell Health Series: Digitizing Tedious Paper-Based Workflows and Referrals in a Large Health Care System with Sharie Torres

Today’s featured guest is Sharie Torres. Sharie is a registered nurse from Hawaii and has worked in a large healthcare system there for 20 years. She acts as a Utilization Manager and has witnessed firsthand how technology has helped one of the largest providers of the nation, improve their workflow and referral management processes. A lot of healthcare systems today are struggling with the transition to technological solutions. Moving from hundreds of paper processes to something quicker can be a huge and often tedious undertaking for a medical team. 

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Episode 39: The LivWell Health Series: The Role of Technology and Transformation In Senior Living With Denise Rabidoux of EHM Senior Solutions

Episode 39: The LivWell Health Series: The Role of Technology and Transformation In Senior Living With Denise Rabidoux of EHM Senior Solutions

Today’s featured guest is Denise Rabidoux, President, and CEO of EHM Senior Solutions. EHM Senior Solutions is a not-for-profit organization with a history dating back to 1879. Formerly known as Evangelical Homes of Michigan, EHM operates senior living, Medi-Care at home and private duty life choices programs.

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Episode 38: The LivWell Health Series: One Caregiver’s Journey to Impact 1 Million Lives with Alex Go

Episode 38: The LivWell Health Series: One Caregiver’s Journey to Impact 1 Million Lives with Alex Go

We are in for a treat with today’s featured guest, Alex Go. Alex is the CEO and Co-founder of LivWell Health, a technology-enabled service provider that assists seniors to live independently at home and also for families seeking assistance in their care. Their goal is to make caregiving easier for the 44 million Americans that are caring for older adults and special needs children. LivWell Health partners with senior service providers to expand the markets they serve with the goals of enhancing revenue and improving staff productivity.

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The LivWell Health Series: Modernizing the Delivery of Home and Community-Based Services to Improve the Social Determinants of Health

About LivWell Health

With an aging population that prefers to live independently in the setting of their choice (often their home), the demand for home and community-based service delivery is growing.

LWH logo.png

LivWell Health is designed to meet this need for patients and their families, care coordinators, social workers and senior living providers.

  • Care coordinators and social workers have chosen LivWell Health's workflow-optimized, referral management solutions to easily manage community resources, create a patient-centric "personalized service plan" and streamline patient hand-offs to their preferred network partners. 
  • Senior living providers enjoy LivWell Health's interactive digital signage systems and tablets to register for social activities, submit service requests, review dining options or just keep up with community news.  This offers one information system to power all of the providers' signage, in-campus TV channel and resident portal solutions. 

Podcast Series

This four-part podcast series dives deeper into the role that LivWell Health and technology in general increasingly play in home and community-based services and care transitions.  The following episodes explore LivWell Health founder Alex Go's personal journey as a caregiver and how it inspired him to create LivWell Health, as well as examples of how several communities and care coordinators have incorporated LivWell Health into their programs with great success.

  • Episode 38:  One Caregiver’s Journey to Impact 1 Million Lives with Alex Go
  • Episode 39:  The Role of Technology and Transformation In Senior Living With Denise Rabidoux of EHM Senior Solutions
  • Episode 40:  Digitizing Tedious Paper-Based Workflows and Referrals in a Large Health Care System with Sharie Torres
  • Episode 41:  Leveraging Metrics and Personalized Care to Keep Older Adults Healthy and Safe at Home

Episode 37: Creating An Organizational Culture to Serve Older Adults In a Consistent, Caring Way With Tristan White

Today’s featured guest is Tristan White. Tristan is the CEO and founder of The Physio Co, which helps Australian seniors stay mobile, safe, and happy. Onsite physiotherapy is their thing. In 2004, The Physio Co was just one person with a vision to change seniors' healthcare forever. Today, The Physio Co is ranked as Australia’s best place to work, has 100 team members and delivers over 200,000 physiotherapy consultations per year. 

Tristan is a qualified physiotherapist from the University of Melbourne. He has an MBA from Queensland University of Technology and a Masters degree from MIT for their Entrepreneurial Masters Program. Tristan also loves helping other people build strong cultures and be happier at work. He writes a blog called Culture is Everything, which Smart Company lists as one of Australia’s 25 Best Business Blogs and he is also a speaker. In today’s episode we hear all about Tristan’s work with The Physio Co as well as the systems he uses to create successful cultures in his organization and in others.


Listen to the Show:

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • Why Tristan left behind a sexy career helping professional athletes to serve older adults
  • The role physiotherapists play in providing social engagement for the seniors they treat 
  • How a combination of in-person and tele-rehab can be powerful for PT patients
  • How to discover and live the core values of your business and create a consistent organizational culture
  • How to show employees love and appreciation
  • The importance of being flexible on what you deliver but consistent in how you deliver

Featured On The Show:

BOOST Bonus: 8 Innovators Targeting the Elder Care Market

The Sponsor For Today’s Episode:

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Episode 24: How to Channel a Successful Career into a Start-Up Venture With Jay Newton-Small

Today on the podcast we are delighted to welcome Jay Newton-Small. Jay is the co-founder of MemoryWell, which is an online platform that empowers caregivers to provide compassionate and empathetic care. They do this by having journalists tell the stories of people who can’t tell their own, which helps caregivers understand them and improve their quality of life. MemoryWell was launched in September of 2016, and it’s off to a really impressive start. Just a few weeks ago, in March 2017, Jay and her team took home the top prize of $130,000 in the Launch category at the Inaugural WeWork Awards. 


Prior to her life as a startup founder, Jay served as the Washington correspondent for Time Magazine and is also the author of Broad Influence: How Women are Changing the Way America Works. Jay has written about everything from Washington politics to foreign policy and national trends. She’s covered stories on five continents for Time from conflicts in the Middle East to the earthquake in Haiti, to the Scottish Independence Movement, and attacks in Paris. She has also covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns for Time, as well as Congress and the White House, and interviewed numerous heads of state, including Presidents Obama, and George W. Bush, along with senators, governors, and foreign dignitaries. She has written more than half a dozen Time cover stories and contributed to dozens of others. Jay is also still a regular contributor on MSNBC and CNN and continues to contribute to Time Magazine


Listen to the Show: 

What You’ll Learn From This Episode:  

  • Three things that everyone should know about MemoryWell.
  • How MemoryWell helps caregivers provide additional support and emotional care.
  • The role that technology plays in helping MemoryWell make an emotional connection.
  • What inspired Jay to write her book, Broad Influence.
  • How Jay determines how much time to devote to her original career as a journalist and author and her newer start-up venture.

Featured On The Show:

BOOST Bonus: Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers

The Sponsor For Today’s Episode:

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Episode 19: Disrupting the Hearing Aid Industry with Patrick Freuler

Today’s featured guest is Patrick Freuler, the founder, and CEO of Audicus, which offers high-tech, affordable hearing aids by selling them straight to consumers, online. Audicus is changing the way hearing loss is diagnosed and treated by providing remote hearing test solutions, which they do by offering free hearing test apps on desktops and iOS. This unique model is truly disrupting the hearing aid industry. In fact, it is so disruptive that Audicus has become the leading eCommerce retailer of hearing aids and has saved consumers more than $30 million to date.  

On top of that, Patrick recently pitched to Sir Richard Branson on Necker Island alongside only a handful of companies in the Extreme Tech Challenge. Patrick was born in Switzerland but he was raised in and went to school in Brazil and Amsterdam. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and before Audicus he worked as a private equity healthcare investor at Bain Capital and also as a Strategy Consultant at McKinsey.

Patrick joins us today to talk about the three things that everyone should know about Audicus, including how they are streamlining the hearing aid acquisition process with a consumer- centric focus. He shares how Audicus is revolutionizing the hearing aid industry by taking a completely new approach and offering consumers an alternative to purchasing hearing aids. Patrick outlines exactly how they were able to grow Audicus by tapping into the tech- enabled, younger consumer segment with their unique business model. The press and word of mouth that the company received from this approach was what really put Audicus on the map.

Ultimately, Audicus is all about bringing people together by taking a consumer-based focus to their branding. Patrick also shares how they aim to educate their consumers to take healthcare decisions into their own hands to have a drastic improvement in their quality of life.


Listen to the Full Episode: 

Read the Transcript

Episode 19 Transcript: Disrupting the Hearing Aid Industry with Patrick Freuler


What You’ll Learn From This Episode:

  • The three takeaways that everyone should know about Patrick’s company, Audicus.
  • How Patrick is steering Audicus to disrupt the hearing aid industry by providing consumers with an alternative channel to purchase.
  • The strategies Patrick used to grow Audicus, competing in two different customer segments and bypassing audiologists.
  • How to identify your ideal customer segments and how to uniquely market to each one.
  • What motivated Patrick to leave his prestigious positions in Corporate America and start his own company.
  • How Patrick finds balance within his work and personal life.

Featured on the Show:

BOOST Bonus: 5 Ways to Disrupt a Dying Industry

The Sponsor For Today's Episode:

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Episode 14: Taking the Leap to Start Your Business with Adam Kaplan

It's scary to take the leap of faith and start your own business, no matter how excited you are to pursue your passion. Our guest, Adam Kaplan, left a comfortable job at his father's company to do just that - so today he's sharing that journey.

Adam Kaplan is the founder and CEO of Solera Senior Living, a platform for the development and operation of luxury communities for seniors. Adam joins us to talk about his strategies at Solera, the importance of networking and strategic partnerships, and why he left his father's company to build his own. 

Solera focuses on building innovative, luxury communities that seniors truly want to live in - complete with food service, transportation, and engaging resident programs. Adam talks about why Solera's emphasis on retaining great talent within the company produces a better experience for employees and senior residents alike.

Adam and I also talk about the more technical aspects of his business, including his three-part approach to rapid growth. Adam also talks about the tenacity required by young entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles, and why meeting other professionals is essential to his strategy. We also touch on how he maintains balance among all the busyness in order to be a well-rounded father, CEO, and person. 


Listen To The Full Episode:

What You'll Learn From This Episode:

  • The three pieces of Solera's business plan that have propelled its rapid growth.
  • Why Adam thinks finding, developing, and engaging talent is one of the keys to success.
  • How reaching out to other professionals and widening his circle helps Adam refine his ideas. 
  • The strategy Adam used when confronted with potentially hurtful comments about his youth or inexperience. 
  • Why you shouldn't wait for "the right time" to launch your business.

Featured On The Show:

BOOST Bonus:  18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick

The Sponsor For Today's Episode:

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Episode 11: Running a Successful Mission-Driven Startup with Scott Moody

Today on The BOOST Podcast, I get to chat with serial entrepreneur Scott Moody! Scott has enjoyed an illustrious career as a tech genius in the startup world. Now, he’s combining his skills with a heart for serving an overlooked demographic as the CEO of K4Connect.

Scott was the CEO and Co-founder of AuthenTec, a leading provider of fingerprint sensor and security solutions. AuthenTec was eventually acquired by Apple. After swearing off startups, he took the plunge again by creating a mission-driven tech startup that focused on the needs of older adults and people living with disabilities. He recognized that technology solutions which help this population live an independent lifestyle were severely limited.

We talk about his approach to creating an encore career and why he felt compelled to return to the startup world after an inspiring encounter in Rwanda. Running a startup is a team effort and Scott shares his approach to finding the right team and cultivating an environment that produces results. Scott has a wealth of knowledge to share and a great perspective on how to help make the world a better place through mission-driven entrepreneurship. 


Listen To The Full Episode:

What You'll Learn From This Episode:

  • The three things Scott wants us to know about K4Connect.
  • How both of his startup experiences compare, even though their target audiences and missions are completely different.
  • Why he decided to go back into the startup world after selling AuthenTec to Apple.
  • How to hire the right team and give them the space to use their strengths.
  • Why he decided to focus on serving the demographics of senior citizens and people living with disabilities.

Featured On The Show:

BOOST Bonus:  5 Key Principles of Servant Leadership

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Episode 6: Owning Your Own Care with Kym Martin

I am thrilled to welcome my guest, Kym Martin, to The BOOST Podcast this week! Kym is a keynote speaker and founder of 360 Degree Insights, a strategic healthcare consulting firm.

Kym is also a 4-time cancer survivor. Having been diagnosed with cancer in her teens, twenties, thirties, and forties, it was important for Kym to turn her experience into a meaningful contribution to the healthcare industry. Armed with personal knowledge of patient psyche at the varying degrees of engagement, she works to help the industry better understand the needs of the patients.

This is a truly inspirational story of turning hardship into service to the world and I know you will join me in gratitude for Kym's work and inspiration for your own. 


Listen To The Full Episode:

What You'll Learn From This Episode:

  • The different stages of patient engagement that Kym went through with each cancer diagnosis.
  • How taking control of her medical experience inspired Kym to start her own business.
  • The quality she learned as a cancer survivor that helps her as an entrepreneur.
  • Why saying yes to the "wrong" things early on is an important step in refining your message and brand.
  • Kym's best advice for other entrepreneurs.

Featured On The Show:

BOOST Bonus:  Kym's recommended reading list for personal and professional development:  

Enjoy The Show?

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The Perils of Making Healthcare Too Personal

Healthcare is deeply personal. We all know that.  And projects and ventures that arise from personal experience are often accompanied by great passion, which can be wonderful.  However, that intimate relationship with the healthcare system can produce some blind spots.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed first-hand how personal experience with the healthcare system has clouded some of my clients’ judgment and led to costly, if not catastrophic business decisions.  I can’t even count the number of times digital health founders have described their venture to me in this manner:

I had a family member who had [fill in the blank] health issue…So I knew this was a problem and I had to find a solution.  I hired some developers and we put together a Minimum Viable Product and with your help, we can get a pilot going in the next 3 months. 

This usually leads me to ask a series of questions:

  • Have you talked to other prospective customers?
  • Did they validate that they had the same experiences and problems that you observed/experienced?
  • Have you examined the market to make sure no one else is already doing this and/or are you aware of other companies who may have tried and failed?
  • I assume you have strong pre-existing relationships with your prospective pilot partners?

Shockingly, too many times, the answer to all four of these questions has been NO.  And that is a huge red flag to me.  Any founder that starts a business based solely on their own experience with one part of the healthcare system is taking on an inordinate amount of risk, far more than one should ever incur in any start-up venture.

While it’s great to be familiar and passionate about your solution, it’s even more important to do your due diligence.  This includes the key activities of customer discovery and product/market fit.


Customer Discovery

Customer discovery is the process of identifying the customer that you are building a solution for.  To do this effectively, you need to have a deep understanding of the problems this customer has and build your solution around solving their problems, not yours.  You shouldn’t go out and build a solution and then look for a customer with a problem to sell it to. 

During this phase, you should get to know your customers well enough to be able to develop detailed personas for each customer segment.  These personas can have names and should include illustrative details that describe what they think, see, feel and do.

You can take the personas one step further and develop customer journey maps that illustrate a customer’s interaction from beginning to end for a certain experience.  For example, a 65-year old with Type 2 diabetes may have a very different journey than a 15-year old recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Each of these customers require their own personas; understanding their unique journeys will help you create messaging, a solution and an experience that really resonates with each of them.

Your own experience with the healthcare system should still be an input in this customer discovery period, but it should not bias what you learn.  If you don’t approach customer discovery with an open mind, ready to listen, then it is a wasted exercise.  This exercise may validate your personal experience, but it may reveal that your experience is representative of just one of many customer segments.  As a result, you need to understand which segments have the most pressing problems you can solve and how to prioritize the value you bring to the market.


Product/Market Fit Assessment

Another critical part of taking your experience with the healthcare system one step further is to learn about the broader market.  In addition to considering your own experience, you need to understand how different stakeholders in the healthcare system work together and the interdependencies that cause decisions and actions to result a certain way. 

I also recommend doing a market scan of your top 10-15 competitors in the space, so you understand exactly what they are offering, their business model, their footprint in the market, etc.  This knowledge will help you identify any gaps in the market with existing offerings and help you craft a value proposition that is differentiated from the competitors.

Your personal experience with the healthcare system can undoubtedly be an asset when developing a digital health solution.  But the individual lens through which we view something as personal as healthcare can quickly become a liability if it clouds our ability to execute an objective customer discovery process and product/market fit assessment.


Part Four in the PCAST Series: Technologies that Support Age-Related Cognitive and Physical Changes

Perhaps the most obvious changes that occur as we age are the physical and cognitive ones, the ones that keep us from doing things the way we always did in the past.

The PCAST report identifies the following technologies to help aging adults continue to live independently and safely despite age-related cognitive and physical changes:

  • Monitoring systems to record activities and identify falls
  • Anti-fraud technologies to protect against financial exploitation
  • Cognitive enhancement or assistance systems like “brain games”
  • Product and home design changes that consider the dexterity and needs of older adults who want to age in place
  • Telehealth to improve access to care for both physical and mental health

Taken together, these technologies can have a tremendous impact on older adults’ ability to age in their home, while receiving quality care.  While the private sector has a large role in advancing these technologies, the role of the government is equally important.  The government can support private sector innovations by defining privacy and security standards, passing regulations to ensure that products and services actually provide their advertised benefits, and improving access to these technologies via payment reforms and other regulatory actions.

Most notably, the report makes the following recommendations for the government:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the private sector should develop guidance on privacy and security issues around monitoring.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) should support interdisciplinary and translational research including robotics, advanced mobility technologies, communications technology with special emphasis on emergency situations, cognitive training, and home monitoring.
  • There should be ongoing reauthorization of the Older Americans Act to ensure access to online services and protection from scams and fraud, tailored to the learning needs of older adults.
  • The federal government should encourage the banking and financial services sector to offer monitoring services to protect assets from fraud and exploitation.
  • The Federal Trade Commission should continue to enforce regulatory review and guidelines for commercial cognitive training products.
  • To spur telehealth adoption, HHS should convene the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Governors Association to accelerate reciprocal state licensure policies and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use the full capacity of the Innovation Center to advance payment policies that support innovation in telehealth.
  • HHS should work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on regulations and payment policies around home accessibility standards, particularly for retirement communities.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) should work with AARP and other relevant groups to accelerate better design guidelines for senior-friendly packaging, especially of technology and essential products like food and medical supplies.
  • CMS should examine Medicare payment policies for wheelchairs and other mobility-related technologies that inhibit access and market innovation.

Much of the innovation and product development that supports aging in place takes place in the private sector.  However, without government involvement it’s much harder to ensure that these technological innovations will actually provide meaningful enhancements to older adults’ quality of life as they age in place and their physical and cognitive abilities change.  As a new administration takes over this January, it will be interesting to watch how and if the recommendations from the PCAST Report under President Obama are carried forth. Stay tuned…


Part Three in the PCAST Series: Spurring Social Engagement and Connectivity for Older Adults – It’s About More Than Tech

As we age, it becomes harder to maintain our social connections.  Families move, friendships change, loved ones pass away and we become less physically mobile.  While this is not a new phenomenon, we have never had more technology at our fingertips to allow us to stay connected.

The PCAST report makes a number of recommendations for the federal government to enact policy changes that facilitate leveraging technology to increase social connectivity among older adults:

  • Create a national plan to ensure broadband Internet access for all older Americans
  • Ensure that older adults are included in negotiated agreements for federal telecommunications approvals
  • Develop a plan to support accessible technology training centers for older adults

These policy suggestions are important, but even if we solved all the technology issues that prevent older adults from staying connected, they would still suffer from isolation and reduced social engagement – technology isn’t enough.

In addition to technological solutions and efforts designed to improve the technical literacy of older Americans, we need to find innovative, meaningful ways for their local communities to tap into their skills and expertise.  Older adults are a huge resource for communities to build intergenerational bonds that allow them to pass on their expertise and wisdom from decades of experience to younger generations.

Technology is absolutely an enabler for older adults to have increased social engagement and sustained connectivity to their friends and family.  But it should not be a substitute for face-to-face, in-person human interaction.  In the future, the most innovative solutions and programs will use technology to facilitate more of these in-person connections and help them scale across communities around the nation.

COMING SOON:  Part Four in the PCAST Series: Technologies to Support Cognitive and Physical Changes


Part Two in the PCAST Series: Innovative Technologies and Disruptive Business Models in Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a complex topic that is tough to adequately capture in a blog post.  Consider this post a primer on the key facts and associated regulatory and market issues as well as the barriers to consumer adoption of hearing loss solutions.

An October 2015 PCAST report on hearing loss laid out the following grim facts on hearing loss:

  • 25% of adults between 60 and 69 years, 50%+ in the range 70-79 years, and almost 80% of those older than age 80 have difficulty hearing – that is almost 30 million people in the U.S.!
  • The average person has been having trouble hearing for 7-10 years before they get it checked out
  • Untreated hearing loss is statistically associated with higher risks of social isolation; depression; dementia; falls with injury; and inability to work, travel, or be physically active
  • Only 15-30% of Americans with hearing loss seek out and use assistive hearing technologies
  • Hearing aids are prohibitively expensive - the average price of just one hearing aid in 2014 was $2,363, with premium models costing nearly $3,000
  • Hearing aid components are estimated to cost less than $100 to manufacture and produce
  • Medicare rarely covers the costs of hearing aids so consumers typically pay out of pocket
  • The stigma associated with wearing hearing aids is another major barrier to adoption
  • 12-18% percent of the 3 million hearing aids sold in the U.S. each year may end up not being used due to poor fitting and other adoption challenges

Innovation in the hearing industry – both for product features and business models – has been lacking.  This is due to a number of factors:

  • The industry is highly concentrated with just 6 hearing aid manufacturers dominating 98% of the global market for the last 15 years
  • Distribution channels and reliance on audiologists to diagnose and treat hearing loss (who are incentivized to sell select brands) have reduced consumer choice by creating barriers to access multiple brands and models
  • Some states require in-person sales and prohibit mail and Internet orders, which can be more affordable and convenient

There are a number of steps that the government and industry can take to improve treatment of hearing loss and adoption of hearing aids and devices.

  • Run marketing campaigns and public service announcements to reduce the stigma associated with hearing loss and aid in prevention – Identify celebrity endorsers and promote free earplugs at loud events/activities (i.e., concerts, spin studios, etc.)
  • Promote hearing testing early and often – Certify and market hearing aid tests and make them accessible online or via smart devices.  Provide incentives to primary care physicians (PCPs), other providers and employers to recommend and perform hearing tests (currently very few PCPs conduct hearing tests)
  • Relax regulations on FDA requirements for medical evaluations to purchase hearing aids – The FDA currently requires that consumers undergo a medical evaluation to purchase any kind of hearing aid.  Relaxing this requirement and allowing consumers to purchase basic hearing aids over the counter may allow consumers to better treat and self-manage their hearing loss
  • The Federal Trade Commission should work to promote more consumer choice – Nearly 80% of hearing care professionals bundle diagnostic and treatment options.  Not only do many patients not use all the services in a bundle, but it also prevents them from comparison shopping for better options.  The FTC ended such bundling practices for eyeglasses in 1978 and similar changes to bundling practices for hearing care will provide more consumer choice.
  • Leverage innovative technologies to reduce the cost of manufacturing and improve convenience – Use 3D printing to create custom earbuds and configurations; develop “hearables” (wearables that assist with hearing to offer things like forgotten names (via face recognition), health alerts (Fitbit equivalents), and navigational information (indoor and outdoor GPS)); and utilize computational power to make assistive devices more effective
  • Withdraw FDA’s draft guidance on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) – PSAP devices, which aren’t defined as hearing aids, serve many of the same functions as hearing aids and have experienced greater innovations and cost reductions than traditional hearing aids.  The FDA does not regulate PSAPs as they do hearing aids; however, in 2013, the FDA drafted guidance that would thwart PSAPs’ ability to truthfully market claims that they assist with hearing amplification. Such guidance will seriously stymie PSAPs’ ability to reach consumers, their business model and their efficacy in treating hearing issues.

In short, there are a number of complex societal, regulatory and market forces that make consumer adoption of accessible, affordable and attractive hearing solutions very challenging.  It is time for the public and private sector to work together to do what is best for the consumer and address our nation’s growing hearing problem.


PCAST Series on Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age: 4 Changes Affecting Older Americans

In March 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a Report to the President on Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age.  The report identifies four significant changes affecting older Americans and examines how technology and the government can play a role in supporting these changes.

1.    Hearing Loss – 25% of adults between 60 and 69 years, 50%+ of adults 70-79 years, and almost 80% of those older than 80 experience hearing loss.  That’s 30 million Americans affected today!  Hearing loss is linked to other issues – increased social isolation, dementia, depression and risk of falls, and reduced ability to work, travel and be active.

2.    Loss of Social Engagement and Connectivity – As people age and become less mobile, it can be increasingly challenging to maintain social connections.  Technology has the potential to address this issue as seniors increasingly utilize the Internet, smartphones and other innovations, but adoption is uneven due to varying degrees of technical literacy as well as socio-economic barriers.

3.    Cognitive Change – As we age, cognitive decline is inevitable.  Not only can this create challenges for daily living, but it can also make older adults victims of financial fraud and exploitation.

4.    Physical Change – Like cognitive decline, our bodies physically deteriorate as we age, causing other limitations both for aging in place and maintaining our health and quality of life.

PCAST provides 12 cross-cutting recommendations for the federal government to spur technological innovation to support aging challenges in these four areas. While the private sector is already tackling these issues, there have been less obvious synergies between private sector innovations and government programs supporting technology and aging.  This series will address each of these four areas and examine PCAST’s recommendations and private sector innovations and how both stakeholders can work together to address these important issues on aging.

COMING SOON Part Two in the PCAST Series:  Innovative Technologies and Disruptive Business Models in Hearing Loss


Part Two in the Caregivers in the Workplace Series: 4 Caregiver Benefits Employers Should Promote

Thinking about offering caregiver benefits to your employees, but don’t know where to start?  Here are four benefits that can help your employees manage the stress, complexity and emotional and financial burden associated with caring for their loved ones.

1.    Employee Support Groups – As caregivers struggle to balance their career, families and other responsibilities with the task of caring for their loved ones, they often ignore their own needs, particularly around their mental and emotional health and well-being.  Providing a support group where employees can talk to other caregivers can be very therapeutic and offers a healthy release from their daily stressors.  These groups can also serve as a venue to share information and best practices that can help caregivers navigate a complex and fragmented ecosystem.

2.    Aggregated Local Resources – Nearly 85% of caregivers report wanting more caregiving resources.  Unfortunately, these resources and information for caregivers are extremely fragmented.  Additionally, many resources are at the local level, which can make it particularly challenging for caregivers who are providing care from a distance.  Organizations can provide great value to caregivers by aggregating local resources into existing EAP programs and including referrals to caregiver resources in the community.

3.    Discounted Products and Services – Caregivers often experience additional financial stress when caring for their loved ones and can benefit from discounts on caregiving-related services, including meal delivery, transportation, in-home paid caregiving, medication adherence and telehealth services.

 4.    Specialized 401K/Savings Plans – Many people do not adequately save for acute or chronic health problems that require caregiver support.  As a result, many caregivers and their loved ones face financial burdens that they did not anticipate.  Company 401K plans and advisors can provide retirement options geared towards caregivers, taking into consideration the often unexpected role that caregivers take on during their peak earning years.


Caregivers in the Workplace Series: 5 Reasons Employers Should Offer Caregiver Benefits to Employees

There are nearly 44 million caregivers in the U.S., the majority of who are also employed.  The typical caregiver is a female in her late 40s providing nearly 25 hours of care per week to her mother, for an average of 4 years (men are also increasingly taking on caregiver responsibilities). 

Not surprisingly, family caregivers carry a heavy burden as they try to balance their careers and their own families with the demands of caring for their loved ones.  This can have serious health, financial, emotional and professional consequences for the caregiver. 

Employers are also impacted by caregiving; on average, they lose more than $2,000 per year for each employee who is a caregiver. This loss is attributed to the costs associated with replacing employees, absenteeism, workday distractions, and a reduction in hours.  Employers have an opportunity to play a significant role in easing caregivers’ burden through benefits tailored to their unique circumstances.  

Here are 5 reasons employers should offer benefits to caregivers:

1.    Attract and Retain Women – Since the majority of caregivers are women, benefits designed for this group can help companies attract and retain women or those workers who are looking for a family-friendly work environment.  This can be an important differentiator in competitive industries like consulting, law and finance, where careers are particularly demanding and women may exit the workforce or defer a promotion, believing that they would not be able to juggle intense work demands with family responsibilities. 

2.    Reduce Health Insurance Costs – Caregivers often experience great stress and neglect their own physical and emotional health when caring for their loved ones, leading to increased healthcare costs. According to a MetLife study, employers paid approximately 8% more for the health care of caregiver employees compared to non-caregivers, potentially costing U.S. businesses $13.4 billion per year. By offering benefits that enable caregivers’ to more easily care for their loved ones, companies are helping caregivers take better care of themselves, which can lead to better health outcomes and lower costs.

3.    Increase Productivity and Reduce Absenteeism – U.S. businesses lose up to an estimated $33.6B per year in lost productivity from full-time working caregivers.  By providing access to resources, support and other benefits, employers can make it easier for caregivers to find services and solutions for their loved ones and, in turn, gain peace of mind that allows them to be more focused on their jobs.

4.    Prevent Talent Drain – Some caregivers find that working and caring for their loved ones is just too much.  Nearly 20% of employees leave the workforce earlier than planned to care for a family member.  Many of these employees are mid- to senior-level professionals in the prime of their career, which can leave big gaps for employers to fill. Providing additional support and resources for caregivers can prevent early retirements.

5.    Promote a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion – As companies increasingly look to differentiate themselves as employers of choice and brand themselves as innovators, they need to develop a diverse workforce comprised of different cultures, genders, races and viewpoints.  Providing benefits to caregivers should be part of an overall inclusion strategy to attract and maintain a diverse workforce. 

COMING SOON Part Two in the Caregivers in the Workplace Series:  4 Caregiver Benefits Employers Should Promote


Transportation for Family Caregivers – Driving Scalable Solutions

According to a 2015 joint research study between the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S.  Caregivers are typically female, 49 years old, caring for their mother, work full- or part-time, and provide care for an average of 4 years.

Transportation is the leading activity caregivers provide

Transportation is the leading Instrumental Activity of Daily Living that caregivers provide to their loved ones.  Caregivers spend a lot of time in the car, driving the individuals they care for from appointment to appointment or social activities, picking up groceries and medicine and running other errands.  On top of this, many caregivers have children of their own and may also be shuttling them between soccer practice, friends’ houses, tutors and school.  This means the average caregiver can spend a lot of time acting as a chauffeur, which may test their capacity to be physically and emotionally present in other activities, such as work or spending quality time with the ones they are caring for and their friends and family.

Providing transportation solutions for caregiving is hard

Unfortunately, providing transportation solutions for caregivers and their loved ones is not an easy fix.  Standard transportation options like public transit and taxis often work well for the general population, but do not address the special needs of this population, which require empathetic solutions.  Few organizations have been able to bring scalable, affordable solutions to market in a meaningful way, as described in the table below.

 Despite these challenges, there are some existing, albeit imperfect, solutions

The solutions that exist today can be helpful for those who are aware of them and know how to leverage the resources in their local communities. That said, it is still challenging to find a consolidated source of transportation options, even with options such as Eldercare Locator, a finder tool that connects individuals to community resources and Ridescout, an app that displays a wide array of transportation options available locally.

The federal government has acknowledged these challenges as the U.S. Department of Transportation prepares to launch the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center (NADTC) in the fall of 2015.  The NADTC will have $2.5 million to provide technical assistance to improve the availability and accessibility of transportation options that serve the needs of people with disabilities, seniors and caregivers. 

In the meantime, private companies, public and non-profit organizations, and volunteers continue to test and try to scale a number of transportation solutions.

 We need to think differently to bring effective and scalable transportation solutions to market

We should leverage the learnings from the plethora of pilots and community efforts and identify public and private partnerships that will provide ample funding and consumer choice for different solutions. 

Through such partnerships we could design solutions, including:

  • A national ridesharing service that provides extra assistance through for-profit, public and grant funding

o   Partnerships between the leading ridesharing companies and volunteer, public and escorted ride organizations that already have the expertise and training to deliver assisted/escorted rides

o   Collaboration between logistics and transportation coordination companies and escorted ride, public and volunteer organizations to leverage expertise on fleet management, greater coordination and transparency, and economies of scale resulting from centralized control of resources

o   Additional features – such as telephone and web requests – to make an older population more comfortable with the service

  • An aggregator or finder tool to allow caregivers and loved one to access all transportation options available in their communit

  • A nationally-recognized volunteer platform that allows caregivers and their loved ones to request rides and encourages volunteers to sign up

These solutions are not quick, cheap or easy.  But until we start thinking boldly and differently, we will be stuck waiting for business models to prove themselves out in the private market and communities and local governments to advocate for more funding.  Until then, caregivers will continue to juggle too much, causing them to miss work, lose quality time with their family and friends, and contribute to declines in their physical and emotional health.  At the same time, care recipients will continue to be dependent on their caregivers for transportation or risk becoming isolated and sick.  Given the choice, we simply can’t afford to maintain the status quo.