A Productive Day on Aging, Disability and the Role of Technology in Supporting Independence

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The Institute of Medicine's  premiered the new CAST video and focused on policy opportunities and barriers to leveraging technology to improve outcomes and facilitate independence.

It was so gratifying today to be part of the Institute of Medicine's Public Workshop on Fostering Independence and Healthy Aging through Technology. The Institute of Medicine is a leader in setting the agenda for priorities in health care, and I was thrilled to hear the conversations about policy opportunities and barriers to leveraging technology to improve outcomes and facilitate independence.

In our session we premiered of the new CAST video "High-Tech Aging: Improving Lives Today" was well-received and provided a high-level overview of the Aging Services Technology Report, which helped us identify which technologies have strong evidence of efficacy and have promise for cost-effectiveness under the right models, like remote patient monitoring. 

I emphasized in my message the need for innovative business models that are conducive of the adoption of technology. I called for a large demonstration of technology-enabled care models that are led by, or have significant emphasis on, long-term and post-acute care and integrate them with acute care partners, possibly through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.  

The reveal of the video proved a wonderful partner presentation to Steve Saling's discussion of how technology helps him continue to live and work while having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Other speakers challenged the panel to reconsider assumptions about the barriers to technology development and implementation. Geoff Fernie of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute showed some of the work his lab is doing in everything from improving technology for lifting people to modifying building codes to reduce falls on stairs. 

Joseph Coughlin of the MIT Age Lab, who spoke at the 2012 LeadingAge Annual Meeting, shared his thoughts on how changing demographics will force us to address technology solutions for aging. He also called for a new agency to encourage entrepreneurship and translation of solutions that users "want," and not just need!

In the mid-morning session, Rory Cooper, from University of Pittsburgh, gave an over view of mobility devices including robotic solutions, and gave a glimpse of the accessible Home of the Wounded Veteran's, in Fort Belvoir, VA. Gregory N. Wellems, of Imagine! In Boulder, CO, talked about how his primarily Medicaid-funded organization helps create and renovate homes for people with disabilities and seniors to age in place.

In the afternoon sessions, which focused on technologies to Promote Community Integration, Mohammad Yousuf, of the Department of Transportation, emphasized the importance of transportation and gave an overview of new technologies for accessible transportation, and Jon Sanford from Georgia Tech, discussed work place accommodations for individuals with disabilities. 

The session included two presentations that emphasized the importance of social connectedness with presentations from Judy Brewer, from MIT, the Web Accessibility Initiative, and the World Wide Web Consortium, on the importance of web accessibility as a means to providing person-centered supports and services. 

Clayton Lewis, from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), also discussed importance of finding innovative ways to connect older adults and persons with disabilities to the Internet and cloud computing.

The last panel of the day focused on health management and promotion, where Joseph Agostini, from Aetna, presented on their experience with health monitoring using interactive response systems. Carol Winstein, from University of Southern California discussed the use of technology in rehabilitation, including virtual reality and rehabilitation robotics. 

The session closed with a presentation from Timothy Bickmore, Northeastern University, describing their experience with health behavior change using an avatar-based health coach.

For more information, please watch the workshop's video webcast or read the transcript.