Technologies to Support Melanoma & Skin Cancer Awareness

“I thought I could beat anything. Then my doctor said: ‘You have skin cancer’ Melanoma is not the most common of skin cancers, but it is the most dangerous if not found in the early stages.”

Jane Green, Author
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Skin cancer is one of the most common cancer types worldwide: one in five people in the U.S. is expected to receive a skin cancer diagnosis. Early detection and treatment are invaluable: almost all skin cancers (both melanoma and nonmelanoma) can be cured if found and treated early. The American Cancer Society reports that across all stages of melanoma, the average five-year survival rate in the U.S. is 92%. The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is 98%. Prevention and detection are the key. One of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a decrease in the number of patients visiting dermatologists to check for suspicious moles or changes in their skin. One fact dermatologists pointed out in a recent survey was that about 21% of melanomas might have gone undetected in 2020.

The annual cost of treating skin cancers there is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma, which is a huge number. Fortunately, digital technologies are on their way to help dermatologists diagnose and treat skin diseases better and more effectively. After reviewing the current research on the topic, here are the key technologies that will help support the practice of dermatology in the coming years.

Teledermatology – Smartphones coupled with super-fast internet connections make it easy to send pictures or footage anywhere, so telehealth solutions appeared naturally in dermatology. The options of teledermatology services, as well as self-care platforms, are soaring. Companies like FirstDerm, Direct Dermatology, iDoc24, and SkinVision all work based on the same principle: they promise patients the option to self-check their symptoms and connect to a dermatologist online for consultation within a very short time. Usually, people can load up their photos to a particular platform, and smart algorithms and/or dermatologists give advice based on them. COVID-19 has given rise to telemedicine practices across the entire healthcare industry, but dermatology has been one of the easiest to adapt to the digital age. As the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology” puts it, COVID-19 has removed “many restrictions that have roadblocked telehealth adoption.” There has historically been an immense shortage of dermatologists in the U.S. A 2017 estimate found that there were only 3.4 dermatologists per 100,000 people nationwide, and the average wait time to see one of them is 32.3 days. Even with all the obvious checks in the “pro” column—affordability, convenience, and accessibility—teledermatology still isn’t perfect. So, it’s essential to understand what conditions are best treated with teledermatology and which require an in-person visit.

Primary Care Physician Office – The DermaSensor is a handheld objective skin cancer sensing device that utilizes both pulses and light and spectroscopy to non-invasively identify information about a skin lesion at the subcellular level. More specifically, this device uses Elastic Scattering Spectroscopy (ESS), which measures and records photon scattering patterns as they reflect off different cellular structures following the input of quick bursts of light. ESS technology has been validated in more than 30 clinical publications that have demonstrated this technique’s utility in analyzing the macroscopic structure of both cellular and subcellular particles. Since malignant lesions scatter light at different intensities, the DermaSensor algorithm, derived from thousands of spectral samples of pathologically verified lesions, will immediately categorize a skin lesion as “Higher Risk” or “Lower Risk.” The DermaSensor device is intended to be used by primary care physicians in annual patient visits to check for suspicious skin lesions or changes in the skin since the last visit. PCPs will be able to use DermaSensor™ as an adjunctive tool to assess skin lesions better and determine whether an additional evaluation is needed.

Image Credit:, Accessed 5/4/2022

High-resolution, whole-body imagingExplicitly designed for dermatology, the VECTRA WB360 whole-body 3D imaging system from Canfield Scientific captures the entire skin surface in macro quality resolution with a single capture. The fully integrated software allows clinicians to map and monitor pigmented lesions and distributed skin diseases. Other applications include documenting pigmented lesions, psoriasis, and vitiligo.

Image Credit: Canfield Scientific

Wearable sensors – The clip-on QSun can detect UV exposure using five LED displays to indicate UV index. Once you shake it, it’ll let you know your UV index. That’s your measurement of how powerful ultraviolet radiation beaming from the sun is. The iOS and Android-friendly wearable keeps track of how long you have been out in the sun before you start to burn. When your time is up, it’ll vibrate to let you know that you should get in the shade. The QSun’s AI considers skin type to help determine the time that should be spent out in the sun. The Shade disc-shaped device is packed with sensors that can measure UVA and UVB rays and are even sensitive enough to do that with indoor light. The iOS and Android compatible wearable uses a magnetic clasp to wear on pretty much any piece of clothing, and it’ll keep you protected for five days before you need to power it up. If you like your wearables invisible, LogicInk will keep you safe in the sun with its Logic UV temporary tattoo. You stick the tat to your skin and watch its two rings throughout the day. There’s no phone or smartwatch involved. Simply keep your eyes on the tattoos. The smaller inner ring tells you how harsh the sun is by changing from white to purple. The outer, larger ring will turn bright pink from purple when you’re getting close to burning your skin.

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The dermatology app environment – Over the past few years, developers have created smartphone apps that help users monitor moles and lesions for any signs of progression to skin cancer. Popular apps include the following:

  • UMSkinCheck – The University of Michigan launched a free app that guides users through a complete home skin check exam. This app also offers the opportunity to create a mole library. This will enable people to compare and track any skin changes over time.
  • MoleMapper – The Oregon Health & Science University developed this app. It allows users to take photos and gather measurements of any moles on their bodies. Similar to UMSkinCheck, the app will enable users to take regular pictures of their moles to facilitate change tracking over time.
  • Miiskin – This app also allows users to take pictures to track their moles over time. Users can also pay for a version that lets them track large areas of skin. This may help them identify new marks and moles they might not have seen.
  • MoleScope – This is a high-resolution camera compatible with many different smartphones. This camera uses high magnification and special lighting to take more detailed and better quality photos than other skin cancer apps. It also contains many features that other apps do, such as skin mapping, image management, and regular reminders.
  • SkinVision – This app helps users identify high-risk moles that require further testing. The app classes each photo as either high or low risk. SkinVision also provides advice on the next steps to take.
  • Cureskin – The artificial intelligence-based app was developed by two engineers previously working by Google, and it aims to compensate for the lack of dermatologists in India. It can diagnose six common skin conditions – pimples, acne, scars, dark spots, pigmentation, and dark circles. The user takes a photo, the algorithm analyses the skin issues, the app’s chatbot asks a few questions, and, depending on the inputs, the A.I. recommends an eight-week skincare regimen.
  • Dermatology A to Z – The American Academy of Dermatology developed the Dermatology A to Z, specifically designed to serve consumers looking for skin health information. The app gives users evidence-based, dermatologist-approved health information, insights on diseases affecting skin, hair, and nails, and the latest medical and cosmetic treatments. Utilizing the smartphone’s GPS tracking system, the app can show the UV Index in real-time to fight against the dangers of ultraviolet radiation and find the nearest dermatologist in the area.
  • Eczema Tracker – Through the app, users can check pollen, mold, temperature, and humidity levels for any location, track the flare-up of eczema and get valuable advice on how to control and manage the condition for all ages. Through constant monitoring, patients have the chance to follow what triggers their symptoms and whether their medication can alleviate them.
Image Credit: Eczema

But are these apps accurate? Although the developers of some of these apps claim that they identify problematic moles and lesions accurately, research has shown that this might not be the case. A 2019 article in Trusted Source in the BMJ found several downsides to the available skin cancer apps, including a lack of testing to verify their effectiveness, a shortage of expert input when developing the technology, and issues with the technology itself. More scientific research will help doctors more clearly determine the accuracy of these apps. There are, however, some significant benefits to the regular reminders and the ability to photographically track moles or skin changes. For example, many people do not regularly check their skin. It can also be challenging to remember what a mole looked like last month or six months ago. Apps can provide valuable information to support advice from a doctor.

Where we’re going – Using advanced technologies to reduce the number of skin cancer issues could be crucial in pushing back the disease. Perceived value, trustworthiness, privacy, design, and costs are important barriers and facilitators regarding the use of mobile health applications (mHealth apps) for skin cancer screening, according to study findings published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

How New Technologies Can Support Mental Health & Wellness

“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain and you feel the rain, but you are not the rain.”

Matt Haig, Author & Journalist
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In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2019, 4.7% of adults aged 18 years or older reported regular feelings of depression, and 11.2% reported frequent feelings of worry, nervousness, or anxiety. Forty percent of Americans with a 12-month history of severe mental disorders do not receive treatment. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased mental health care needs while simultaneously restricting access, with unknown long-term consequences. From August 2020 to February 2021, the CDC described an increase in the proportion of adults reporting recent symptoms of anxiety or depression from 36.4% to 41.5%, with the fraction saying unmet mental health care needs increasing from 9.2% to 11.7%. Among children and adolescents, the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits for those aged 5 to 11 years and 12 to 17 years increased by 24% and 31%, respectively, compared with 2019.

Image Credit: Mental Health America

Mental health issues have shed much of the stigma they carried three decades ago, and parents and adolescents are more at ease when discussing the subject among themselves and seeking help.

“We envision a world where technology understands when someone is going through a depressive phase or panic attack and provides support in their time of need.”

George Eleftheriou, Founder and CEO, Sentio Solutions

Mental health is moving far beyond the psychiatrist’s couch. Technological advancement has pushed digital therapeutics to the forefront of convenience—in people’s pockets, on their laptops, and even within Facebook messenger. And with that, the category expands to include a suite of wellness products and services. It’s a new ecosystem that sees individuals relying on a wide range of tools—chatbots, apps, and digital support groups—to combat modern-day issues such as burnout, loneliness, and anxiety. Combined with traditional medical models, it encompasses a holistic approach to psychological wellbeing. So, reviewing the current research, here are the major technologies that can support mental health and well-being.

Telehealth and Virtual Therapy – Tech is redesigning traditional care by improving access and customizing the experience. Virtual therapy apps such as TalkSpace, BetterHelp, and Amwell give patients the ability to call, text, and video teleconference with professional counselors on their schedule and in the comfort of their own homes. These frictionless options, often a fraction of the price of clinic appointments, serve individuals with time constraints or those in rural areas who lack access to care. Online platforms such as Rethink My Therapy, which offers unlimited therapy for $60 a month, particularly appeal to millennials who want their medical appointments as easy as ordering in dinner. Millennials are far more likely to address their mental health than generations prior, with seven out of 10 saying they feel comfortable seeking help.

Other virtual therapy apps center on counselor matchmaking and addressing specific patient needs. Regain specializes in professional couples therapy, and Pride Counseling serves LGBTQ individuals, while Henry Health targets black men. The newly launched Ayana connects marginalized communities with therapists from their culture, background, and race. Other virtual therapy apps center on counselor matchmaking and addressing specific patient needs.

“I think we all want for there to be great ways to see our doctors remotely… but when you move to online, you have to think about the modality of treatment, and whether it’s going to be effective.”

Christina Farr, Omers Ventures

Wearables – Mental wellness wearables such as headsets and bracelets slowly see traction, though many are still in the early stages of clinical trials. The Muse brain-sensing headband helps you get the most out of your meditation practice by giving you real-time biofeedback about what is going on in your mind. The Muse is not some dystopian headset trying to alter your brain. Instead, its makers, InteraXon, want to train you to modify it yourself. The routine is simple. You put the Muse headset on, and you complete the breathing exercises to the sound of waves (neutral), storms (bad), and tweeting birds (good) which indicate how focused and calm you are. If your mind is too active, the Muse gives you feedback to help you clear your thoughts.

Image Credit:, Accessed 5/1/2022

Korean startup YBRAIN has raised $4.1 million to develop hardware for brainwave monitoring and brain stimulation for mental health professionals. The startup’s MINDD SCAN headset is a wireless EEG system that screens visualizes, and processes brain activity in real-time. Traditional EEG scans typically take an hour, while MINDD SCAN takes care of the examination and ensuing analysis in five minutes. YBRAIN’s second product, the MINDD STIM headband, helps activate communication between neurons in the cerebral cortex using electrical stimulation, which is beneficial for conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Sweden startup Flow Neuroscience has raised $1.1 million to develop a brain stimulation headset that can treat depression without medication. Similar to the YBRAIN device we discussed earlier, the Flow Neuroscience device sends gentle electrical signals to the brain’s frontal cortex, which activates brain cells. Early results appear promising. In a trial, 23% of users overcame depression entirely, and 41% felt significantly better after six weeks of using the headset alone. Flow provides a CBT app that helps introduce positive lifestyle changes as well to maximize patients’ chances of recovery.

Image Credit: Flow Neuroscience

Feel has raised $1.8 million to develop a wristband that assists CBT therapy by identifying emotions. Feel’s technology monitors skin electricity conductance, heart rate, and temperature throughout the day and relays this data to machine learning algorithms that translate it into emotional patterns. The connected mobile app provides personalized recommendations based on users’ emotional states. For example, if you’re feeling anxious and agitated, your heart rate increases, and skin conductance changes suddenly. Feel’s wristband relays this information to the app, which suggests a calming breathing exercise. By doing the exercise, your body will feel calmer, promoting a clear emotional response as well. Feel has created a mental health program combining this feedback mechanism with remote therapist sessions and homework tutorials that help practice self-help techniques. The startup offers its programs through health plans and employers.

Fitbit and Apple Watch – Fitbit has a Relax app on its Blaze and Ionic models. The app is a breathing exercise that can last for 3 or 5 minutes and is designed to help the user slow down breathing and heart rate. It’s a quick yet still efficient exercise to find a few minutes of calmness every day. It also shows the progress you have made over time and how much you could reduce your heart rate during the exercise, which guarantees that you come back to it day after day. While you can’t quite track mental health on Apple Watch, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t features that can help with anxiety. For example, Apple has the Breathe app onboard. Deep breathing is one of the most straightforward tools to lower your body’s stress levels. In layman’s terms, when you breathe deeply and slowly, it sends a message to your brain that everything is OK, and the brain doesn’t need to release epinephrine (adrenaline) to fuel your fight or flight response. In other words, it helps relax you.

Founded in 2015, startup Somatix has raised $7.5 million to develop real-time gesture detection technology that helps in the behavioral and physical monitoring of patients. The startup’s platform uses sensors in commercial off-the-shelf smartwatches, smart bands, and IoT connected devices to track gestures in real-time and recognize physical and emotional indicators. Gesture data is sent to the cloud, combined with user-specific information like calendar appointments, contacts, and social media posts, and analyzed by machine learning algorithms to find significant behavior patterns.

The mental health and wellness app environment – Mindfulness and meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, and female-focused Sanity & Self offer audio tracks to relax listeners and strengthen mental resilience. Frequently, they’re paired with breathing exercises, visual aids, and journaling guides. Israeli social network Wisdo connects individuals struggling with mental conditions, as well as those overcoming difficult emotional situations. Some apps take their cues from entirely different genres, evidenced by the ever-growing anti-anxiety gaming space. Nearly a million people have played SuperBetter, an app that gamifies mental health upkeep. Players accrue points by persevering through stressful situations, completing breathing exercises, and breaking bad habits. Mindstrong is an app that analyzes how users interact with their phones—how they type or scroll—to identify mood states. Its machine learning can reportedly detect a range of potential mental health patterns. It is now being tested on California patients through the state’s public mental health system. Then there’s U.K. Startup Thymia, which has developed a simple set of mobile video games that might, with the help of AI, pick up on depression signals and any office examination, according to the founders. When clinical trials begin later this spring, Thymia will try to improve and even save lives as it alerts doctors to warning signs they might otherwise miss. The Thymia games, downloadable free from its site, are minimalist. They involve simple tasks in whimsical natural settings; in one, a player tries to track bees buzzing around sets of flowers. But the machine is gathering critical information. Mental health advocates also generally worry that cheaper app-based approaches to mental health could deter insurance companies from paying for human doctors. Thymia founders say that this is one of the reasons patients will not be allowed to use the service themselves and instead must go through their clinician. The company says Thymia does not share data with third parties, including insurers. is a terrific site that reviews over 600 behavioral health apps. It was created by researchers at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Health System. What I like best about the site is the ability to use various filters to examine the apps’ privacy policies. John Moore of Chilmark Research looked at those. And of the 600+ apps, only 458 had a privacy policy. Of those, only 426 declared a data use and purpose. Of those, only 251 let you delete data. And of those 251, only 22 meet HIPAA requirements. Bottom line: be careful with your personal information on these apps. Mental health apps have worse privacy protections for users than most other types of apps, according to a new analysis from researchers at Mozilla. The apps with the worst practices, according to Mozilla, are Better Help, Youper, Woebot, Better Stop Suicide,, and Talkspace. The AI chatbot Woebot, for example, says it collects information about users from third parties and shares user information for advertising purposes. Therapy provider Talkspace collects user chat transcripts.

“It’s just really been there for me during a lot of my recovery. When you go to therapy, everyone’s kind of looking at the clock… Through the day, if I needed to talk to her, I could just text her.”

Tiffanie Mouzoon, TalkSpace user, Axios interview 5/2/2022

ChatbotsChatbots are also on the rise. Woebot is an AI-enabled “robot friend” who looks like Wall-E and engages users through uplifting or sympathetic conversations. The adorable digital therapist is now available in 120 countries, serving more than half a million people. Woebot is a “fully automated conversational agent” developed by Woebot Labs in San Francisco. The app’s daily check-ins began with a question about where you are and what you’re doing but didn’t push with open-ended questions. Instead, it asked you to choose a quick emoji that describes your feelings. Over time, Woebot charts those emoji responses to help visualize trends and then shares that chart with the user. Next is Wysa, a playful artificial intelligence penguin that operates on iPhone and Android platforms.

“[Digital mental health] is a $500 billion category over the next decade.”

Sandeep Acharya, Founder, Octave Health

Where we’re going – Mental health tech will move into the mainstream as cultural norms continue to shift. The widespread use of smartphones means that every person carries a supercomputer that can be used for personalized mental health care. Millennials’ embrace of convenient treatment, as well as interest in self-care, will transform how employers, universities, and local governments offer subsidized care. The ongoing public conversation on toxic workplaces and burnout is already pushing big companies to take action and realize that prevention is more affordable than treatment. In the coming years, expect more well-being tools that work in conjunction with medical care. The new consumer might find themselves weekly teleconferencing with a therapist, then relying on a meditation app during moments of stress. Or maybe they’ll wear a bracelet that will warn them when a panic attack is forthcoming. The future will be full of intrusive and feel-better tech readily available at an individual’s fingertips.

Some Straight Talk About Technologies That Support Aging In Place

“The Decade of Healthy Aging: A global collaboration, aligned with the last ten years of the Sustainable Development Goals, that brings together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live”

World Health Organization, 2021
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Recently I received a book recommendation from a longtime reader of this blog who pointed out that they’ve enjoyed the “Straight Talk” series of posts but thought that I’d missed a big trend around an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention – age tech.

The book they recommended was The Age Tech Revolution: A Book About the Intersection of Technology and Aging by Keren Etkin. I immediately purchased and downloaded the book and couldn’t put it down. If you are interested in the intersection between demographic trends, global economies, and technology, this is a great read, helping understand the changes we are facing as a society and what role technology plays in all of this. A glimpse into our future from a passionate expert that has devoted her life to researching this topic but incorporating real-world experience as well, with a strong understanding of how technology is developed and scaled.

The book and her website, The Gerontechnologist, are the most comprehensive resources on age tech, the market, and the companies working in that space that I’ve found to date. If you are interested in this topic, do yourself a favor and buy the book, and bookmark her website. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s my take on where we stand today, the challenges and opportunities in the market, and the technologies that support the ability to allow an individual to age in place.

The challenges – By 2050, we’ll have two billion people over the age of sixty living on this planet—that’s twice what we had in 2017. In the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, people over sixty-five are expected to be about 28 percent by 2050. On the other side of the equation, the “caregiver support ratio,” which is the number of potential caregivers aged forty-five to sixty-four for each person aged eighty and older—is declining. In 2010, every American over the age of eighty who needed care had seven potential family caregivers. By 2030, they will only have three (AARP Public Policy Institute, 2013). The US will face “a shortfall of over hundreds of thousands of direct care workers and several million unpaid family caregivers. This has real consequences for families, not only in America but also worldwide.

Image Credit: AARP The Longevity Economy® Outlook
Image Credit: AARP The Longevity Economy® Outlook

Costs are going up too. Genworth, who conducts and publishes an annual Cost of Care Survey, estimated in 2020 that the monthly median price for in-home care is expected to increase by approximately 30 percent by 2030. There will be a similar increase in the cost of assisted living and nursing homes, which are higher, to begin with. Currently, the cost of just two years of in-home care or assisted living could easily surpass $100,000, and many people require care for much longer than that.

Another challenge for the future is “the longevity factor.” Scientific breakthroughs will extend our lives by more than a year, for every year we are alive. This is called longevity escape velocity, and some experts think it’s only 12 to 15 years away. Of course, getting to that point is multidimensional. It means addressing health from all angles, with personal lifestyle choices, technology, and more.

The opportunities – AARP, the nonprofit, estimates there’s a $9 trillion economy all around us. It’s ripe for innovation. We have a unique opportunity within the next ten years to build better technology that will serve the needs and wants of the aging population and ultimately make us a more age-inclusive society. And, the 50-plus population has money to spend on products and services that make their lives easier, safer, and more productive. The 50-plus population is an economic engine in its own right, which helps drive the overall economy. Almost two-thirds of spending on financial services and insurance is attributable to the 50-plus age demographic for whom retirement and other financial planning needs are immediate and pressing. This spending provides an opportunity for industry leaders to make their companies more universally relevant by targeting the 50-plus cohort while simultaneously benefiting other generations.

Image Credit: AARP The Longevity Economy® Outlook

Foundational technologies that support aging-in-place – Few misconceptions are more pervasive than the notion that older adults are unenthusiastic about technology. The opposite is true. Numerous studies have shown that older Americans are embracing technology. Indeed, one survey in 2018 found that of the 50-plus population, more than 90% own a computer or laptop, 70% have a smartphone, and over 40% own a tablet. Moreover, older adults’ demand for technology goes beyond smartphones and apps. Their enthusiastic adoption of smart home assistants, strong interest in automobiles with computerized driving assistance, and enrollment in computer-based distance education suggests that business leaders in technology would do well to pay them greater attention. The problem lies not in an unwillingness to adopt but in being overlooked by the industry.

Image Credit: University of Michigan, Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, 2/9/2022

“AARP’s research has found a sharp increase in older adults purchasing and using technology during the pandemic, and many are interested in using technology to track health measures.”

Indira Venkat, Vice President, Consumer Insights, AARP

I believe that several “foundational” technologies will support the development of products and services to allow individuals to age in place. Remember that these will not be standalone use cases but will be combined with other technologies to create an exponential benefit for the user. Here they are in no particular order:

Voice technology – I’ve written here before on voice-enabled technology in health care. But I genuinely believe that this is one of the key foundational technologies that will support aging-in-place. Not only does the technology eliminate the need for complex user interfaces, but it can also be used in combination with AI and Machine Learning to determine a person’s state of mind, assess cognitive function and emotional health. Applications like Google’s Duplex allows Google Assistant to make calls for you and schedule appointments with local businesses and is currently being rolled out to select geographies and devices.

Robot assistance and companions – This is another technology I’ve covered before. Now that I’m older, I fully expect to have a live-in robot to help me with my ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and household maintenance if I should require assistance. We could build home robots to handle household maintenance and help with ADLs.

Ambient technology solutions – We can develop ambient technology that’s embedded in our homes, able to anticipate our needs, and provide us with instant solutions. The idea of the “smart home” for seniors has been around for some time now. The phrase “Smart Home” means different things to different people. Any time a home gets some “intelligence” incorporated into some aspect of it, it gets a “smart home feature.” A smart home feature is any aspect of a home — usually involving some type of gadget or appliance — that incorporates some level of automation or programmable behavior. Smart home features also often include some aspect of “connectivity” — either to the outside world or other elements in the house.

An excellent way to think about smart home features is this. Various smart home features are suitable for the population at large. These include thermostats, automation of appliances, security systems (burglar alarms, video doorbells), and air quality. Then some specific smart home features might seem especially useful for subgroups of the population — including some who are “older adults.” These include things like a “smart device” which can connect wirelessly to a hearing aid, or some other type of personalized hearing gadget (e.g., headphone); a smart fridge that automatically reorders staples for you when they go low, and knows when you need to throw out old food; or a smart home gadget that replaces a conventional front door lock with a similar lock that can be opened either by a key or by a code entered into a set of buttons.

Since the smart home concept involves multiple technologies that need to be integrated, serviced, and supported, this creates an opportunity to create a business model around “The Smart Home as a Service.” This service would: help you pick the smart home features you need; teach you how to install the equipment or do it for you; provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance. And it would be easy to add a layer of extra services “enabled” by the smart home data, such as regular changing smoke alarm batteries and other routine preventative maintenance tasks. Over the last few years, we have seen several companies attempt to offer services like this.

Here’s a link to a recent Fast Company article on how Canadian communities are redesigning senior living.

Companies working in the AgeTech market space – As I mentioned earlier, the most comprehensive resource I’ve found is Keren Etkin’s website. She’s posted a terrific infographic with a list of companies developing technology solutions by market segment. I’ve included a copy below:

Image Credit: Karen Etkin, The Gerontechnologist website, accessed 2/9/2022

We have a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impact the experience of living as an older adult in this world using technology. It’s a market that’s not getting the attention that it demands. But there’s hope on the horizon as more tech incubators focus their efforts on developing startups working in the space. Time to get moving, folks! I’m not getting any younger 😏

It’s About Time – Patient Advocacy: A Personal Story & Some Recommendations

“What we offer is the opportunity to save you time and eliminate the frustrations of navigating the healthcare system.”

Curus Healthcare Solutions
Image Credit:

As I mentioned in my first post of 2022, this year I want to explore how the use of technology in health care can save time for patients, their families, and front-line health care workers. But, in this post, instead of talking about technology, I’m going to focus on people – specifically people helping people.

First, a disclaimer. For the first time since I began writing this blog, I will focus on a specific company, Curus Healthcare Solutions. I have no financial or other business interests in the company. I will discuss my personal experience and that of other family members with them. I’ll also make some recommendations at the end that I believe can help others facing a similar situation.

Introduction – In my advisory capacity with The Center for Innovation Commercialization, I get the chance to meet with and listen to companies who are developing innovative products and services for health care. That was the case with Curus Healthcare Solutions. I was introduced to Mark Schlussel, the CEO, and Jared Mort, the COO, and had an extensive conversation about their work in helping patients and their families navigate the complexities of our so-called health “system” when trying to manage care for themselves or loved one. After 40-plus years in the health care industry, I’ve heard dozens of companies profess to be “patient-centric” or “putting the patient at the center of what we do.” So, you can imagine that I was skeptical at first about what I was about to hear. After the usual formalities and introductions were over, within two minutes, I knew I was experiencing something very different. Listening to what the company had already accomplished and their plans for growth, I was struck by the passion for service I heard from both executives. Digging a bit deeper and researching the company’s claims, I found that people using their services were uniform in their praise.

YouTube Video Credit: Curus Healthcare Solutions

I left that conversation very impressed with the organization, their people, their business model, their growth plans, and the results they were delivering for their members. Little did I know at that time how soon members of my own family would require those services.

Beyond Theory, Becoming Reality – Two months after that initial introduction, I received a call from a family member trying to manage an urgent situation for their spouse who had multiple chronic conditions. They needed to find a skilled nursing facility and get a transfer done within forty-eight hours and were in a panic. I remembered the conversation I had with Curus and reached out to Jared to see if they could do anything to help. Instant response: “put us in touch with your relatives, and we’ll get to work.” Several phone calls followed, and to my amazement, Curus was able to find a suitable SNF close to my relative’s home and facilitate the transfer – all in under forty-eight hours. My relatives signed a chronic care agreement with Curus. They have been managing all the care for this individual through several hospital admissions, rehab work, and a return to the SNF for some ongoing care.

Shortly after that, the spouse received a diagnosis of cancer and faced the double dilemma of “what do I do now that both of us are ill and facing a period requiring intensive care at multiple sites over an extended amount of time.” Another call, a lengthy discussion, and a second chronic care agreement was signed. Since that time, Curus has managed every aspect of their care, from scheduling appointments to dealing with insurance coverage, arranging for assistance with home care, and consolidating all the medical records from multiple specialists into a comprehensive personal health record. Once everything was in place, Curus reviewed the recommended care plan with my family members and answered their questions.

“If I didn’t have Sara and Jared helping me though this, I’d be lost.”

Family member

Am I a fan? Absolutely. Would I recommend them to others? I would, and I have. A congregation member at the church we attend is trying to manage multiple co-morbidities with both in-network and out-of-network physicians. As you might expect, they’re going crazy trying to figure out what’s covered, what isn’t, and how much the out-of-pocket costs are. I’m in the process of trying to connect them with Curus to see whether they can help.

Since it’s too late to offer some suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions, I’ll make a few targeted recommendations based on my personal experiences as described above:

If you are an employer – Consider engaging with a company like Curus to help your employees manage their health care needs, deal with multiple chronic conditions, eliminate unnecessary care, and lower overall annual costs of care for your organization without impacting the quality of care your employees receive. As businesses deal with “the Great Resignation” and Post-COVID neurological, vascular, renal, and gastrointestinal syndromes, this type of care navigation benefit will be well-received by potential and existing employees.

“We at Curus believe that care navigation as well as care orchestration are going to be to critical components within the total healthcare spend.”

Mark Schlussel, CEO, Curus Healthcare Solutions

If you are a health care benefits advisor/manager – Adding the services that Curus provides to your portfolio of services creates differentiation in the market and positions you to grow your client base.

If you are a patient – As you can tell from my family’s experience, having someone you can trust to take over the critical functions of dealing with the complexities of our health system takes away the stress of managing this yourself and provides you with confidence that your needs are being looked after.

If you are a family member trying to manage care for a loved one – Families in the “sandwich generation” who are trying to manage care for elderly parents and children, usually from a distance, can benefit from having a care navigator who is focused on their specific needs instead of cookie-cutter approaches and helps to manage both sides of this very complex situation.

I hope that this information is helpful. As a long-time skeptic of how marketing messages are delivered and of companies that only “talk the talk,” it is encouraging to find a company that genuinely lives its mission and actually “walks the walk.” Thanks, Curus team, for giving my family peace of mind. You have no idea how much that means.