Personal Emergency Response Systems or Why Panic Buttons Alone Are Not Enough

Personal Emergency Response Systems or Why Panic Buttons Alone Are Not Enough

It’s a fact that world’s population is aging, especially in developed countries. There has never been so many seniors in the world as there are now, and their number keeps growing. In their golden years, older people want to age safely within the comfort of their own home, staying active and maintaining an independent lifestyle for as long as possible. To be able to do so, they need some support around them. Telehealth companies, which are on the rise now due to the increasingly older population, offer different technological solutions to assist aging people living on their own. For decades now, the ultimate solution has been a panic button.

Panic buttons have been in the market since the mid-70s. That is a great deal of time for technology-based devices, which tend to have a short lifespan. The reason they have been around for so long is because they have saved many lives over time. But they are not without flaws. Research shows that in most falls, the panic button is not used. This is due mainly to forgetfulness, panic, trauma or not wanting to alarm others. There are also many seniors who refuse to wear them, even after having experienced a fall. Fortunately, technology has made some major advancements in recent years. The new generation of Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), or Social Alarms  — which we discussed in a previous post— learn the daily activities of a senior without interfering in their lives or being noticed, sending a warning upon deviation from behavior patterns to a healthcare provider or caregiver,  thus offering a solution to prevent potential emergency situations. Regrettably, emergency situations still arise, so we need to use technologies, such as fall detection and voice recognition, which triggers an alert the moment a key word is said out loud. Imagine a person falls and can’t get up, or is experiencing a sudden severe pain and the panic button is not at hand. In this situation, it would be enough to say something like “help me” to trigger a call to their monitoring center and immediate medical attention will be on its way.

This is not to say that panic buttons are obsolete, they may come in handy in certain situations, but as standalone devices they are clearly not enough. So when the panic button is not the best solution at hand, it is imperative to use technology to ensure that the elderly are taken care of in the best possible way.

However, service providers in the healthcare industry are still clinging to panic buttons, displaying them as the main feature in their aging-in-place offerings, even when they also offer some type of passive monitoring solution. According to Neil Versel from MedCity News the reasons for this reluctance to innovate are “resistance to change, doubt about the findings and staunch defense of the status quo”. For this reason, consumers are not always aware of the existence of these new technologies. The only solution that they are exposed to when considering aging-in-place solutions is the simple panic button. Often this does not seem like a satisfying solution and they may be reluctant to purchase the system. Service providers who offer more advanced Telecare solutions to their customers ought to be able to communicate its benefits over the traditional standalone panic button through an adequate marketing campaign that will create the necessary market awareness.

We believe that what makes aging-in-place technologies truly useful is the integration of multiple technologies within a single, comprehensive and seamless solution that may be expanded over time with additional services (such as, for example, smoke and water leakage detectors), adapting itself to each individual customer’s circumstances and changing needs.

In sum, new aging-in-place technologies pose a great opportunity for healthcare service providers to expand their offering by adding new services to create a truly reliable solution that will make them stand out among their competitors, while also ensuring safety and well-being for the elders, and peace of mind for their families.

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