By Ginna Baik
It’s a frightening and far too common scenario: One in four Americans age 65 and older falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These accidents, which comprise 2.8 million injuries, account for an emergency room visit every 11 seconds. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury for this population, numbering more than 27,000 deaths every year.
Falls also come at a substantial cost — $50 billion in 2015, with Medicare and Medicaid taking on 75 percent of the expense — one the CDC forecasts to reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Imagine if you or your loved ones could have some advance notice.
That is why I’m encouraged by a growing pool of applications leveraging data and artificial intelligence to better predict a person’s risk of falling. In fact, fall prevention and detection accounted for nearly 40 percent of the $4.5 billion global smart home healthcare market in 2017.
Calculating the likelihood of a fall requires detailed and copious data.
That notion compelled researchers at two North Carolina universities to work with cameras and virtual reality systems to record 30 different body markers placed on elderly patients as they walked on a treadmill. Visual cues that suggest the effect of falling or swaying were then introduced with the aim of identifying undiagnosed balance impairments.
A more complex approach is underway at California startups SafelyYou and Cherry Home, each of which is developing AI systems that use a bevy of sensors, cameras and other analytical tools to capture a person’s movements and other potential warning signs so loved ones and care staff can keep watch with a user’s safety top of mind.
Such concepts will take time to refine and implement widely, but they’re a mark of progress. “[S]enior care is arguably one of the most important areas for technological improvement,” Cherry Home’s co-founder and CEO Max Goncharov recently told VentureBeat.
Ginna is a strategic business development manager for Long Term Care and Senior Living at CDW. She has a passion for building new business solutions that make a difference. She has maintained her focus on senior living as one of the last frontiers where the digital divide still exists, from end users to enterprise.