A Chat with Charlie Hillman, founder and chairman of the board for RPM, Social Engagement and Telehealth industry pioneer, GrandCare Systems. Hillman is a professional engineer and MIT Alumnus.
Whether it is bushels of corn per acre, cars off the assembly line per hour, or hospital bed occupancy, it is the relentless drive toward greater productivity that saves companies, saves industries, and saves economies.
Economic studies have for centuries attempted to define the components of productivity. In days of yore, it was simple. Productivity was just labor and land, as seen in the top left of my slide – just a man and his mule.
Then came the industrial revolution and a new component was added: capital – meaning machines and buildings. The target was, of course, to increase production by introducing machines that could replace the other components, in particular, labor.
The largest gains in productivity were still in the agricultural field as evidenced by the fact that in 1880, it took almost 90% of the US population to produce 100% of the food needed. A hundred years later, less than 10% of the population could produce more than we needed – a tremendous increase in productivity. Manufacturing also underwent a dramatic increase in productivity. We went from manual methods to increasingly automated factories. As expected, the number of people needed for manufacturing has declined while output rises. The production equation had changed again.
Then came the information age. In a relatively short period of human history, information has become a significant factor in the productivity equation.
Let’s go back to agriculture. With satellite photos, a GPS system, and intelligent spreader, a farmer can now apply just the right amount of fertilizer or pesticide on different parts of his field, thus increasing yield and decreasing capital costs.
In manufacturing, the information of new materials, part structure, and our computer aided abilities to accurately perform structural analyses lead to reduced product weight while maintaining strength. The result: information replaces capital and makes possible a trip to the moon.
Now let’s talk healthcare. Some might calculate productivity in terms of patient days, but most consider the simple notion that productivity in healthcare is about saving and then improving lives. Just imagine how information has revolutionized healthcare in just the past few decades. Between sophisticated blood tests, genetic analyses, MRI’s, CAT scans, and Hillrom beds, the modern doctor has access to information that would have been unimaginable just 50 years ago.
Then the patient heads out of the hospital to home, and the attending doctor goes from omniscient to essentially blind. He/She has been cut off from information about the patient and it is not surprising that productivity drops. And, it’s not just the healthcare professional. The patient is also cut off from the information and advice on how he or she might behave to speed recovery and prevent reoccurrence.
And that is why we’re here today.
With GrandCare, healthcare professionals have information even when the patient is outside the clinical setting through its telehealth, instructionals, medication management and telemedicine features. At the same time GrandCare avoids information overload, letting doctors specify the exact conditions and red flag events and who should be notified.
Not only does GrandCare keep health professionals in the know about their patients at home, it also keeps the patients themselves well informed. Discharge instructions can be placed on the GrandCare touchscreen in the form of instructions, check lists, meal plans, exercises or even videos that can be watched on demand at any time. Reminders to engage in appropriate levels of exercise can also be employed. And medication reminders increase adherence, even for those facing cognitive challenges that lead to forgetting.
If you would like to know more about how GrandCare links health professionals to their patients at home, drop us a line. We’d love to show you how GrandCare improves medical outcomes by keeping both professionals and patients well informed.
Isolation is a serious issue, especially as people age. The kids move out, they retire from their careers. They may lose their spouse. They may find themselves living alone with a limited social network. Throw a pandemic on top of that and you have a lot of very isolated and lonely seniors living at home. This kind of isolation is not only unpleasant, it can lead to declining overall health.
A recent NASEM report found that 25% of the 65+ population feel lonely. The pandemic has only exacerbated these numbers. According to the CDC, social isolation contributed to a 50% increase in dementia.
Fortunately, GrandCare can help.
Maybe they don’t go out as much as they used to, and have fewer house guests. But that doesn’t mean they are left with just the telephone and TV as their only sources of engagement. GrandCare offers several features for remote family connection, games, local radio and even old time radio programs. Families can add photos, videos and messages right to their touchscreen. They can also send messages and exchange letters. They can even do video calls to the GrandCare touchscreen right from their computers or smartphones, no matter where they are. A recent 12 month pilot with a medicare advantage payer showed an improvement in physical, mental and overall health amongst GrandCare users from month one to month 12. What’s more, GrandCare can help individuals manage their own chronic health conditions.
In much the same way that their adult children might use Facebook, Zoom and other services to keep in touch with family, GrandCare delivers very similar functionality but with two great benefits. First, unlike those other solutions, the GrandCare user doesn’t have to learn how to do anything. There are no usernames or passwords or addresses to remember. It’s even easier than a telephone: you just touch the name and photograph of the person you want to talk to and that’s it. The second great benefit of using GrandCare is that it removes all of the risk that online life normally brings. With GrandCare you never receive spam emails, you can never receive a call from someone you do not know, and malware isn’t even a thing in the GrandCare world.
Do you know a senior living at home alone? GrandCare is a great way for them to stay connected, even during a pandemic.
Seniors are just like everyone else in that their technology experience can vary widely. Some may run in terror from an iPhone while others (like Lili Hayes) may have millions of TikTok followers. Regardless, just like everyone else, seniors have much to gain from using the many wonderful technologies available these days. And if they need a little help getting started, here are some tips to help you help them.
1. Know the tech experience of the person you are dealing with. Start by knowing your audience. The easiest way to do this is just to ask them what their technology experience level is. This will help you avoid two problems. First, you might wrongly assume that they have knowledge they do not in fact have. On the other hand, you may insult a tech-savvy senior by dumbing things down.
2. For those with very little technical experience, it’s important to sell them on the benefits of technology use. For example, they may be better able to keep in contact with their family and friends. They may better stave off boredom with engaging online content like video games or crossword puzzles. Bottom line is, they need to know what’s in it for them.
3. Find technologies that are created specifically with their needs in mind. The best ones will have all the benefits of technology use, like keeping in touch with loved ones, while having none of the risks. Technology products that avoid usernames, passwords, addresses and so on are inherently easier to use. And some of them even sidestep problems like phishing scams and malware altogether.
4. Be mindful of any vision, hearing, dexterity or even cognitive limitations. Let’s face it, as we get older our faculties may decline. This will vary from person to person, but it’s something to be aware of. Folks with these issues may not be able to use standard computer interfaces that other people take for granted. It is important to select technologies that fit the person. Screens should be large as opposed to small. Icons should plainly indicate their functions. Features should be easily discoverable rather than relying on a memorized series of steps to use them. Want to place a video call? Touching an icon labeled “Video Calls” and then touching the name and photograph of the person they want to call would make it simple. Consider when you used to have to use a program with an arbitrary name like Skype, launch it, log in with a username and password, then remember and type in the address of the person you wished to call. Nobody should have to do that any more.
5. Personalize it! If you’re introducing technology into a senior’s life, first customize it just for them. It is customary for a technology user to do this themselves, but if you have a tech-averse individual in mind, you might want to do it for them, so that their first experience with a new device isn’t a frustrating one. Program in the names and photos of the people they will want to video call, for example. Use photos of their grandchildren for their screensaver and background. Technology will be much more welcome in a senior’s home if it has the faces of their loved ones on it.
6. Select technologies that are well-supported and have great customer service. iPhones are nice smartphones, but even though you can go into an Apple store to get help, there isn’t an easy customer service line to call and get information and tips. Choose a technology that has onshore support and a call center with real people. Getting problems resolved and questions answered quickly will ease the adoption of new technology.
7. Sometimes seniors are afraid of “messing things up.” Use technology with guard rails when dealing with seniors who aren’t so tech savvy. When introducing these kinds of products, let them know there’s nothing they are going to break. This will encourage them to discover and try new things with their new technology.
8. Hide unwanted features and functionality. A laptop can do nine million things. But if your tech-averse senior only plans to do three things, put those things front-and-center and remove the rest from view.
9. Do it together. Don’t just tell a senior what they can do with their new technology, try it out with them. Show them how to listen to the radio, play solitaire or send a message to a family member. Even if you’re just making a video call from down the hall, it’s a lot easier for people to do things on their own after they’ve tried it out with your help.
10. Bonus tip. If you don’t know how to find senior-friendly technology products, start with GrandCare. GrandCare was specifically designed for the aging population (with another platform designed for individuals with I/DD.) GrandCare makes photo sharing, messaging, video calls, calendar reminders and To Do checklists, news and entertainment more accessible for people with any level of technology experience. It also removes all of the risks of being online.
If you want to know more about GrandCare, chat with us live on our website or contact our call center: (262) 338-6147 email@example.com.
Upon learning about this surprising acquisition, my first thought was of the old idiom of the tail wagging the dog. Home Instead is a billion-dollar company with more than a thousand franchises while Honor, the Uber of private homecare, is still a bit of a high-tech startup, albeit a heavily funded one.
But as I thought about it more, it made perfect sense.
Home Instead was founded back when boomers were in their 30s and 40s. As part of the bottom of the population pyramid, there were plenty of boomers who could serve as caregivers, compared to the number of seniors to care for, so the business model of low-cost workers serving seniors at home made sense.
Fast forward to 2021, when boomers are the seniors who will be requiring much care in the next decade, and the pyramid is flipped. The only answer to this is enabling technology. This is exactly the expertise that Honor brings to the table.
The challenge, of course, will be to convince the franchisees that a significant change in business process is the only way to meet the challenges of caring for boomers while maintaining a reasonable ROI.
I imagine that Honor will also expand the offerings of Home Instead to include medical care, such as legitimate medication management, telehealth and telemedicine. Why? Because seniors in the 65+ population are hospitalized at nearly three times the rate of those in the middle-age bracket of 45-64. And more than 85% suffer from one or more chronic conditions. Addressing daily activities plus healthcare is the only way to truly support our boomers and avoid bankrupting our next generations of children and grandchildren.
If anyone has the vision and business acumen it’s Honor!
Written by Charlie Hillman, Founder & Chairman, GrandCare Systems
In 2005, Charlie founded GrandCare Systems alongside co-founders, Gaytha Traynor, Laura Mitchell and Nick Mitchell. For more information about GrandCare’s fully-featured telehealth, activity monitoring and social engagement technology, please visit: www.grandcare.com or contact GrandCare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-338-6147.
In California, for example, the County of Lasson uses GrandCare’s HIPAA-compliant telehealth capabilities to provide therapy visits. And in Ohio, LADD, a Cincinnati-based non-profit, created a smart home for disabled men, which uses GrandCare and other ground breaking innovations in accessibility, lighting and sensory control. This home is built from the ground up to enable the residents to live safer, more independent and happier lives. According to said Brian Hart, Chief Strategy Officer at LADD, “We have been working on this for a long time and our partnership with GrandCare enables us to provide a safe, scalable and affordable service model.” Reimbursement through Medicaid for these services is possible, because Medicaid has expanded its definition of assistive technology to include support for remote supports, such as reminders and prompts for daily activities, and even video calls to receive remote support from caregivers.
With the advent of the pandemic, the importance of telehealth became even more apparent, when it allowed patients to receive services safely, even as they sheltered at home. This was especially critical for our nation’s seniors, who were at the highest risk for the most severe forms of the disease. Those in congregate living were often under quarantine, and unable to safely leave their communities for needed care. The pandemic resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of remote telehealth services.
“Before the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), only 15,000 fee-for-service beneficiaries each week received a Medicare telemedicine service. Since the beginning of the PHE, CMS has added 144 telehealth services,” according to CMS. In the 7-month time period between mid-March and mid-October of 2020, over 24.5 million people received a Medicare-covered telehealth service.
“Telehealth has long been a priority. We started paying for short virtual visits in rural areas long before the pandemic struck. But the pandemic accentuated just how transformative it could be.” – Seema Verma, CMS Administrator
In recent months, Network Health, a Wisconsin-based insurance company, started a new program for its Medicare Advantage members in Wisconsin, using GrandCare in member homes to provide virtual visits with care managers and providers, and reduce loneliness and isolation. They will continue to roll out telehealth and medication management solutions to offer a better member experience.
This year’s Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule once again expands CMS coverage for telehealth services. Although one category of new covered services is designed to be temporary, remaining on the list through the end of the declared public health emergency, others are permanent additions to the list of covered services. It’s part of a strategy, according to CMS, to “create a healthcare system that results in better accessibility, quality, affordability, empowerment, and innovation.”
“Telehealth has long been a priority,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “We started paying for short virtual visits in rural areas long before the pandemic struck. But the pandemic accentuated just how transformative it could be.”
Among the many additional to this year’s schedule is a welcome broadening of the coverage for remote monitoring services. In addition, CMS has created new codes for coverage of online assessments, making it possible for qualified non-physician health care professionals to perform these services. “Medicare beneficiaries will now be able to receive dozens of new services via telehealth, and we’ll keep exploring ways to deliver Americans access to healthcare in the setting that they and their doctor decide makes sense for them,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
Quick–someone you care about needs help staying safe and healthy and independent. Who do you turn to? Whether that someone is elderly or has a disability, and whatever their specific needs are, the answer should probably be Gray Matters Alliance. Their expert staff has a swiss army knife of technologies to address just about every need you could have. And that, of course, includes GrandCare.
- Serving elderly and disabled
- Since 2013
- Comprehensive home assessments
- Report for education, equipment, resources
- Provides GrandCare and other assistive technologies
Founded by Vicki Spraul in 2013, GMA has been providing expert services to the elderly and people with disabilities for 7 years. One of the great things they do is a total home assessment. They send an Occupational Therapist to your house to assess your medical history, cognitive capability, mobility, strength, and balance. Then they assess your entire home, inside and out. Every entrance and exit, room by room, they spot any safety hazards, and look for any modifications and equipment that you may need. All of this is delivered to you in a written report including recommendations for education, equipment, and resources to improve your safety and independence.
Now that’s what we call service!
GMA is part of the Missouri Technology First Initiative which provides assistive technology and remote supports, but they operate nationwide. They are currently an approved Medicaid Waiver Provider for the states of Missouri, Illinois and Oklahoma and more to come. As if that weren’t enough, they are also an approved Brain Injury Waiver Provider for the Department of Health and Senior Services in MO.
If you have an elderly or disabled person in your life and you feel like you need guidance, don’t go it alone. Gray Matters Alliance is your one stop shop for both expert service and great assistive technology.
No question, it’s been a tough year for everyone. Whether you’re a fifth-grader, a parent, an employer, or an employee, we’ve all had our own struggles related to the pandemic. Senior citizens have had their unique challenges, too. Regardless of where they live, many older Americans have found themselves isolated from their family and friends, not getting out as much, and not receiving visitors. It’s smart. It’s healthier. But it’s also downright boring. What’s there to do all day, at home, alone?
Seniors with GrandCare have fared much better. With GrandCare’s simple video calling app, they can easily visit with family and friends, wherever they are. And it’s so easy to use.
Being together is still the best. But GrandCare video calls are the next best thing, and it makes a big difference in seniors’ quality of life. There are no usernames, passwords or URLs to manage. There isn’t even a keyboard or a mouse, because you just don’t need them. You just press a button to start a video call, or press a button to answer one. Even those who, for dexterity or mobility reasons, can’t touch the screen, GrandCare makes sure they can still have successful, easy video calls every time.
But GrandCare offers more to keep seniors engaged and connected. The pandemic moved us to go all-in on social features. We’ve added new games and audiobooks. We’ve added live local radio stations, and old-time radio programs you can’t hear anymore like Car Talk, The Shadow and Dragnet. GrandCare will even tell you a joke, challenge you with trivia about history, sports, or current events, or entertain you with a fun fact. And we’re adding more new content every couple of weeks!
Sure, our mission is to keep people safe, healthy, and connected. But the bottom line is that we do what we do because we want to make people’s lives better. So, settle in to hear the next chapter of Anne of Green Gables, visit with your grandkids, or enjoy a game of Memory. GrandCare’s here for you.
We’d like you to meet our newest team member, Jen Kleczka. In fact, we’d like to meet her too, some day. Most of us are working from home, and have only seen our new Office Manager over Zoom. But we like her a lot, and we’re really excited to welcome her to GrandCare.
Jen’s a people person and incredibly organized. She also has a “can do” attitude, which is perfect for this job. GrandCare is in a period of rapid growth, and it’s her responsibility to keep track of pretty much everything, for everybody and in her limited spare time, do the bookkeeping. She’s been drinking from a firehose since she started and she still seems to be thirsty, which is a great fit for GrandCare.
“I love this company, and I love this job,” she said. “It’s exactly what I want to be doing at this stage of my life.”
Jen was born and raised in West Allis, but she’s been in West Bend for most of her adult life. Her children all graduated from West Bend schools. She has a breadth of experience in jobs she picked mostly to fit around her kids’ schedules when they were young, and then caring for her parents at the end of their lives. “I can do anything, as long as I’m busy,” she said. We’ve found that to be true. We’re keeping Jen very busy, and she handles everything we’ve asked her to do, and it’s been a lot.
When she’s not at GrandCare, her focus is on “family, family, family.” She loves to travel. Her youngest is a U.S. Marine, so whenever she can find a cheap flight, she flies to wherever he’s stationed. She’s also an avid camper. She and her husband help to manage a local campground called Timber Trail Campground during the summer. “Camping is our second family. Sometimes we stay there for the whole summer.”
We’re looking forward to the day when we can officially welcome Jen onboard with our signature employee onboarding at West Bend Tap and Tavern (conveniently located next door.) Until then, we’ll exchange many Slack messages and continue to have fruitful Zoom conversations. Welcome to the GrandCare family Jen and buckle up, it’s going to be a fun adventure!
Click here to meet the whole GrandCare team!
The day will come, hopefully soon, when this pandemic is behind us. When it is, will you be ready with a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform?
The use of telehealth for senior health care visits has soared this year, from a low of just a fraction of one percent (0.1%) of Medicare primary visits in February of 2020 to almost half of all visits (43.5%) in April, just two months later. Safety is one obvious reason for this surge. But what made it even possible is that the federal government drastically reduced HIPAA restrictions on telehealth visits. Suddenly, anyone with Zoom could, and did, use it for health care visits, without worries about the repercussions of HIPAA data breaches.
The good news is that this effort to ensure access to health services has had the desired effect of helping seniors, who are especially at risk of the more serious effects of COVID, to shelter in place without sacrificing their health care. And, in fact, both patients and health care providers have seen the long-term benefits of moving many services to telehealth.
The bad news is that this relaxation of HIPAA enforcement won’t last forever. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA, issued the Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, which waives many HIPAA requirements for telehealth visits. Specifically, “Covered health care providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS).
The HIPAA waiver is set to last as long as the publicly declared National Health Emergency, which is currently set to expire in January, 2021. As long as the federal government continues to prioritize COVID as a national priority, and US Health Secretary Alexa Azar continues to extend the National Health Emergency, the HIPAA waiver will continue. It will not be forever, and it may even be for very much longer. And that’s why this question is so important. Are you ready?
The only way to continue using telehealth for visits in a post-COVID world is to start looking for a HIPAA-compliant solution, the sooner the better.
GrandCare is one such solution. It is a remote monitoring and communications platform for seniors. It’s a proven solution that has been on the market since 2005. GrandCare’s large, simple touch appliance and home health care program helps professional caregivers and families to have HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, send messages, and monitor a loved one’s health & safety. It’s been adopted by senior communities, home health care providers, healthcare payors, disability providers, and even individual families.
Find out more about GrandCare at www.grandcare.com or call us 262-338-6147
Choosing the right community– My search for a technology solution and how GrandCare helped Mom during COVID
In 2012, I moved my parents out of their home and into an assisted-living community. This was a whole new world for all of us — lots of learning and experimenting. The community did offer pendants for residents to press when they needed something (anything) from a caregiver. My mom was never known for her patience. And my dad was struggling with the onset of dementia; so, the pendant was never satisfying for a wide variety of reasons, including the time it took for my mother to press the pendant and for someone to check on her. We brought in our own caregivers to supplement what we were receiving in the community and provide a more enriching life for my parents.
Three years later, after starting a Family Council at the community but becoming frustrated at the lack of responsiveness and level of care, we moved both of my parents to another community. My father moved upstairs to memory care, where he died shortly thereafter. Again, my mom was given a pendant and again she was frustrated by it for the same reasons. But, the community overall was better staffed, my mother had adjusted to the idea of being in assisted-care, as we had. But, as often happens, management changed at the community. It was owned by a private-equity firm who brought in a different company to manage it; and, not surprisingly, their first order of business was to reduce costs, which meant reducing care. We quickly moved again.
So, at the end of 2019, my mom — together with a good friend she met at the previous community — moved to a new one. I liked almost everything better about this facility except for one thing: no pendants. Instead, they had a pull cord in a few places in the room, though my wheelchair-bound mother couldn’t reach the cords and, as she was cognitively in decline, she would forget those options were there for her.
That’s when I went searching for a solution
I was recommended to personally contact the CEO of GrandCare, which right away made me more interested. At this point in my family caregiving role, I learned that personal recommendations are often particularly fruitful and — more so — if a CEO of a tech company is willing to speak with a customer, that speaks to how much they care and want to learn how even better serve those in need. We placed an order for the GrandCare system. When it arrived, a customer-service team member quickly and easily walked me through set up — both the hardware and the app on my phone. Finally, I could check in with my mother without her needing to carry a cellphone (and remembering to have it near her, listen for it, and answer it), which had become increasingly difficult.
For all of these now seven-plus years that my mom had been in assisted living, I was able to visit her almost daily. But then, Covid hit and the world changed. How fortunate I was to be able not only to speak with my mother, but to see her and observe her care. I was the often “third person in the room,” as my mother was being cared for by individuals she didn’t recognize because they were now wearing masks. The closeness with my mother that I was about to virtually achieve with GrandCare, as well as many of the additional features the system offered, was exactly what we needed and continue to need. I don’t really know what I would have done without it, except to feel as if I’m no longer connected and far less informed.
Anytime we had a question about the system or additional functionality, GrandCare would jump on a call. And during the course of the past many months, I’ve even suggested a few minor tweaks to the system, which their tech people not only appreciated but implemented. Thank you, GrandCare.
– Peter, son of a GrandCare user