LeadingAge Cultivates Global Coalitions to Reimagine The Future of Ageing with Help of Emerging Technology

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Recently, I interviewed Majd Alwan, Ph.D., a noted researcher and authority on aging-services technologies, is LeadingAge’s senior vice president of technology, and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST). Prior to joining CAST, Majd served as an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Robotics and Eldercare Technologies Program at the University of Virginia's Medical Automation Research Center. His research interests there included passive functional and health assessment, biomedical instrumentation, medical automation, as well as eldercare and assistive technologies. As a volunteer, Dr. Alwan chaired the Funding Aging Services Technologies committee and the Pilots committee for CAST. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE’s Engineering in Medicine and Biology, and Robotics and Automation Societies, and a member of IEEE-USA’s Medical Technology Policy Committee and the Geriatric Care Workgroup. Alwan also serves on the Alzheimer’s Association’s Work Group on Technology. Dr. Alwan received his Ph.D. in intelligent robotics from Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of London.

Marquis Cabrera: What is LeadingAge?

Dr. Majd Alwan: LeadingAge is an association of 6,000+ members and partners that include not-for-profit organizations representing the entire field of aging services, 39 state partners, hundreds of businesses, consumer groups, foundations, and research partners.

Marquis Cabrera: What is CAST?

Dr. Majd Alwan: The LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) is a program of LeadingAge that brings a coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging-services organizations, businesses, research universities and government representatives, and works on accelerating the development, evaluation and adoption of emerging technologies that will transform the aging experience. I am responsible for creating and leading a network of technology companies, providers and research institutions focused on technology solutions for an aging society. The network advances the interests of older consumers, caregivers and providers and fosters opportunities for collaboration between provider organizations, technology companies, and research institutions in exploring product development, testing prototypes, evaluating technology and deploying technology-enabled care models.

Marquis Cabrera: What problem is CAST solving?

Dr. Majd Alwan: CAST is:

  1. Providing a vision for technology-enabled integrated/ coordinated care and helping aging services providers identify technology-enabled business models that are likely to become mainstay over the next few years, as well as key enabling technologies (see our strategic scenario planning report).
  2. Raising awareness to available technology solutions, their value, evidence of efficacy, cost effectiveness and barriers to technology adoption through formal research, like the Aging Services Technology Study Report to Congress, and informal research aimed at documenting provider’s experience with technology through real-life case studies.
  3. Providing hands-on technology planning and selection tools that helps providers, and frankly consumers, better understand, plan for, and most importantly select technology solutions that fit their living or care setting, and the issues they are trying to address the best.
  4. Tracking technology adoption and technology spending among LeadingAge Members, and the whole long-term and post-acute care sector in general.
  5. Advocating to remove the barriers to the development, adoption, and use of technology.

Marquis Cabrera: Who is your target beneficiary or customer?

Dr. Majd Alwan: The primary target beneficiary is LeadingAge members (non-profit providers). However, because we are a not-for-profit and we believe that the rising tide lifts all boats, we put most of our tools and resources publicly and do not limit access to them to just members, or even not-for-profit organizations.

The secondary beneficiary is consumers, be it older adults or their caregivers. Most of the tools we developed for Telehealth & Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM), Medication Management, Functional Assessment and Activity Monitoring, and the latest tool we just released for Shared Care Planning and Coordination, can significantly help consumers who are interested in Thriving in Place of Choice, not just Aging in Place, select appropriate technology solutions for any of the issues related to these areas that fits their needs and requirements.

Marquis Cabrera: How does the Shared Care Planning and Coordination Technologies compliment past technology selection tools?

Dr. Majd Alwan: The shared care planning emphasizes person-centered care and the need to engage all the extended care team involved in the care process, including the patient, their friends and family caregivers, clinicians from the acute, post-acute, and long-term care, as well as social support services, in the creation of the care plan. It ensures that the care plan addresses all the patient’s needs and goals and ensures the availability, buy-in of caregivers and acceptance of their care tasks!

This portfolio rounds the previous portfolios as shared care planning and coordination technologies could be part of, or could integrate with, all the other categories of technology, including the EHR one, to pull relevant data from them.

Marquis Cabrera: What does your portfolio contain?

Dr. Majd Alwan: Each portfolio has five components. The first is a comprehensive whitepaper that defines the care issue, the technology, its uses, reviews evidence of efficacy and cost effectiveness, and appropriate business models and available revenue or reimbursement streams. It then walks users through the most important planning steps and product feature relevant to the category of technology. We also produce an interactive guide to help busy executives get a quick overview of the whitepaper and providing them with an opportunity to dive deeper into the sections of the whitepaper they feel they need to review in more details.

The third component is a matrix that compares commercially available products across hundreds of functionalities and features ranging from fit for care settings, to the staying power of the company. We also have an online selection tool that helps users quickly get a short list of products that would fit their care setting and other needs based on a handful of the most important features that they feel they must have. Of course they can go back to the matrix for a more detailed side by side comparison.

The fifth component is a set of case studies from providers who have implemented technology products describing the impacts they have experienced, challenges they faced, lessons they have learned and any advice they would share with others.

Marquis Cabrera: How did you select your portfolio of technologies?

Dr. Majd Alwan: We use the CAST scenario planning exercise, which helped us identify future-ready technology-enabled business models that are emerging as a result of health reform, which is shifting the way we pay for health care services away from pay for service to pay for performance and quality as a guide. The exercise also pointed to the increasing desire for people to age in place with dignity and choice, or Thrive in Place of Choice, so that was an important factor. We then identified key enabling technologies. The technology categories that cut across all the business model categories included: Interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHRs) capable of meaningfully exchanging information with other records/providers; Telehealth and telemonitoring that enable delivering services to people’s homes efficiently and cost-effectively on an as needed basis, as opposed to a schedule; and care coordination tools that allow the shared care planning and the coordination between the extended care team members across care settings.

We started with a tool for EHRs in 2012, added Telehealth & RPM tool in 2013, added a Medication Management Tool, which compliments Telehealth and RPM in 2014, added a Functional Assessment & Activity Monitoring Tool, which extends into the dimension of wellness and independence, in 2015, and finally rounded the health and wellness areas with the Shared Care Planning and Coordination tool released last week.

Marquis Cabrera: How does a beneficiary interact with your portfolio of technologies / gain access to them?

Dr. Majd Alwan: Each portfolio is a one-stop-shop that has all the resources relevant to each category of technology in one place. Users have told us that it saved them months of research, especially finding information about commercially available products, which as we all know is not readily available, to select ones that fit their needs. Providers who use our tools tell us that they also saved tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees they would otherwise have paid to outside consultants. As I said these tools are publicly available on the web for free, users may need to complete a form that helps us track the use of these tools.