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Home health aids upgraded

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    Dew-Anne Langcaon, left, and her business partner, Bonnie Castonguay, of Honolulu health company Ho‘okele, display the components of the iHealthHome system that they developed to help family members and caregivers remotely monitor seniors who want to live at home but need some assistance. The computerized touch-pad system can monitor blood pressure with the wireless blood pressure cuff and track the senior’s movements with the motion detector held by Castonguay.
    Dew-Anne Langcaon, left, and Bonnie Castonguay are helping seniors live independently longer with their iHealthHome service.
    The computerized system can be programmed to call a cab, refill medications, order groceries that get delivered and more.

Rising long-term care costs and a rapidly aging population in Hawaii are concerns for families and government officials fearful of the impact on finances.

A recent national survey found that long-term care costs in Hawaii are well above the national median, in some cases costing two-thirds more. The Genworth 2010 Cost of Care Survey said Hawaii’s median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home is $114,975, or sixth highest among all states.

While many are shocked at those numbers, health care professionals Dew-Anne Langcaon and Bonnie Castonguay see the situation as a business opportunity.

The two launched their iHealthHome service last month using a touch-screen communication system and a remote sensing technology to keep track of the activity of seniors in their homes with the goal of allowing them to live independently longer.

The concept also is gaining traction on the mainland, and at least one company, Kentucky-based ResCare Inc., says it has plans to bring its service to Hawaii.

Langcaon, a health care executive, and Castonguay, a registered nurse, said their service brings together a host of ideas and technologies they had been developing since they formed their company, Ho’okele, in 2006. The company initially focused on helping patients and their families navigate the complexities of the health care system, but over time Langcaon and Castonguay said they saw an opportunity to develop a product that could help their elderly clients reduce their medical costs.

IHealthHome uses wireless and Bluetooth technologies for the "discrete" tracking of daily activities in the home that can be relayed electronically to caregivers and family members to ensure coordinated care, Langcaon said. The heart of the system is a touch screen installed in the senior’s home that uses software developed by Ho’okele and one of its partners.

One of the things that Langcaon and Castonguay learned over the years was that many seniors were moving into nursing homes or assisted-living facilities when they didn’t have to.

Given the high cost of long-term care in Hawaii, it seemed like a good place for the in-home service, Langcaon said.

"We wanted to help people stay in their homes and relieve them of some of the costs," she said.

The price for the iHealthHome service is $4,750 for installation with a monthly fee that starts at $145 and goes up depending on the level of support provided by Ho’okele.

Although iHealthHome has accounted for only a small portion of Ho’okele’s $1.5 million in sales so far this year, Langcaon said she expects it will become a much larger part of the company’s business in the years to come.

For Willow Morton of Manoa the iHealthHome system proved to be a good fit for her 91-year-old mother, who prefers to live at home but needs some assistance. Morton said she was part of the iHealthHome pilot project that began testing the system last fall.

"My brother and I visit once a day at different times. And we also have a caregiver, but we just can’t be there 24 hours a day," Morton said. "She’s lived in that house for more than 50 years. She likes living on her own, she likes her routine."

There are motion sensors mounted in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and stairwells used to detect lack of movement, which might indicate her mother had fallen. In that event, Morton would be notified with an e-mail or text message.

Morton’s mother also weighs herself and checks her blood pressure daily, with the information being relayed wirelessly to Morton.

ResCare, a publicly traded company that provides a range of health care services in 38 states including telemonitoring services for seniors, says it is planning on expanding to Hawaii. The company website lists Hawaii as one of its locations, although a company spokeswoman said there is no target date for the Hawaii office to open.

ResCare, through its "Rest Assured" service, uses video cameras in the homes of seniors to monitor their activities and allow "tele-caregivers" to communicate with the seniors. The Rest Assured caregivers are based in Lafayette, Ind., said ResCare spokeswoman Taylor.


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