Dr. Tamara Hayes on how ORCATECH’s research supports elder care | OHSU

would pretty well accept the fact that we have a Medicare
and Medicaid crisis, which is to say that we have this
population of baby boomers who are going to be health care
recipients into the future, and longer into the future
than they used to be, because our health
care is improving. [MUSIC PLAYING] Our research is aimed at
everybody who gets old, which is most of us, we hope. And it’s really
focused on helping seniors remain independent and
healthy as long as possible. So what happens right now, when
somebody goes to the doctor, and they have a problem,
they see the doctor. They get a medicine
or a treatment. They go home, and they
come back six months later. And they’re better,
or they’re not. But in fact, if you
looked at them every day, you might find trends
that you couldn’t possibly see if you weren’t actually
seeing them all the time. What we do is instrument
the homes of seniors and put the technologies
in their homes, so that we can unobtrusively
and continuously watch changes in their
behavior and their health status over time. And they’re not
even technologies that are high tech. This is not an imaging machine
that costs $20 million. This is technologies that,
for a few hundred dollars, you could put in
somebody’s home and be able to capture a health
change that you could fix before it became a crisis. Most of our
technologies are things they don’t interact with. Or it’s a pillbox. It literally is
the plastic pillbox they bought at Rite Aid,
attached to electronics. So it’s very natural for them. We’re not asking them
to program their VCR. That’s a hard problem even
for 20-year-olds, often. Some of the technologies that
we have tested in our lab actually have come
from companies that are trying to
develop technologies for people who want to remain
independent in their home. And a recent one that was very
popular with our participants– surprisingly to us– was a robot. So the company that makes
Roomba partnered with a company that makes video conferencing. And they built this sort of
mobile videoconferencing system that’s a very
anthropomorphic robot. Intel has had a
longtime interest in Alzheimer’s disease, in
chronic health conditions, and in health care. In addition, Intel
has a personal mission to actually educate
the world about this, because it thinks
it’s so important. And we started working with
them about five or six years ago on starting to develop
some technologies and ideas around
being able to help people stay independent in
their home as long as possible. There’s an entire
generation of caregivers who are sandwiched between
their senior parents and their children who are
in their teenage years. This kind of approach of
being able to use information from technology, not
so they don’t have to go visit their parents,
but so that they’re reassured that things are all right,
so that they are less concerned and less stressed. The seniors
themselves, they don’t want to be put in a nursing
home, which is often what happens when you can’t
cope with your entire– your parents and your kids. And you can’t afford
private home care. They end up in a nursing home. And they don’t want to go there. And they’re willing to
do a lot to not go there. I went to work in industry. I actually worked for IBM in
Informix for a number of years. And at one point
in that process, OHSU and the OGI School of
Science and Engineering merged. And they brought an
engineering school into the school of medicine. And to my mind, that was
a brilliant marriage. So what brought me
to OHSU was the fact that they had recognized
that the engineering and the medicine
belong together.

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