How to avoid Crises

by Louis on May 14, 2013

I am reviewing my thoughts on the use and value of aging in place technology. We may be trying to avoid the wrong crisis.

To date most in home tech is conceived to report to family members and maybe an ambulance – reacting to crisis. Or we may dream home collected data, possibly integrated with health information, can be used to intervene before health problems occur, avoiding the crisis. Advances are expanding our personal networks to include neighbors, community and well managed volunteers. Data and networks can also help us be more self reliant and manage our chronic conditions with dignity. All of these are good and legitimate goals. None have found a value proposition that finds favor in the marketplace.

We can reduce risks. We can compress morbidity. All we do in these regards are great. But thinking we can avoid health crises may be collective hubris. People get sick all of a sudden. Strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia come on without warning. The definition of a fall is “An untoward event in which you come to rest, unexpectedly, on the ground.”

As much as these are truly life changing crises for the family, they are everyday occurrences for the ambulance, medical and social work staff. It is work. This may be why there is such disconnection and even anger at the cold reaction families perceive from staff. It is not a crisis for the professionals. That does not condone a lack of warmth or compassion, but if the staff treated every stroke victim as an adrenalin level disaster they would stroke out too! The families are flipping out over everyday stuff.

You experience this in other spheres. Things are going badly. You get disgruntled because someone is not acting with what you believe is appropriate haste for your situation. Remember, they have someone standing in front of them with a similar problem every day! Or many times a day.

Think about United Airlines. They fly 5600 flights a day.  They KNOW problems will occur. It may be weather, broken parts, delayed gates or crews that time out. It is probably all of the above every single day! I bet they know just about how many of which will happen each day, week, month of the year. They plan for this stuff with parts, repair staff, extra crews, etc. All of these things are problems but they avoid being crises because they are expected. They use data to predict what will happen. This is truly business as usual.

Aging in place data may be put to better use informing a system of products and services about what to expect. Data collected from individuals in their homes will not guess who may have a stroke (or which plane will have a broken windshield wiper) but how many families in a given neighborhood or town will have someone discharged from stroke rehabilitation in the next few weeks. Then local providers can gear up for it. Businesses and agencies can plan their inventory. They do not have to operate in crisis. Their business can calm down to business as usual.

I am not saying it will ever be less than a crisis for families. The individual may not fully recover. The family will never be the same.  Armed with appropriate information so they are not operating in crisis, providers can offer better service as well as more help and patience to families about choices.

This is called predictive analytics. Data like this keeps business ticking. The data manages the flow and integration of community resources, not family resources. This is the stuff that allows the planes to run on time (ish), cars to get built in lean manufacturing and delivered to dealer lots for sales events, starter plants in the garden center for spring and turkeys to fill the freezer case just in time for thanksgiving.

I have no doubt home monitoring will continue looking for a niche.  A better value proposition may be using data to integrate and inform providers serving us in our homes to do it better.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris Bradshaw May 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

Louis, thank you for taking the larger issue of Big Data and turning it into something that can help us all. And, yes, it will still be a crisis for the family. But, how many communities actually don’t know how many seniors are in their area, or the chances that x% of those seniors will have a crisis this year, and be able to plan and staff and recruit in order to be prepared? Not taking away the responsibility of the elder themselves for planning and prevention behavior.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: