By Yael Grauer
Nearly 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 years or older in 2030, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau report.
River Systems president Joel Ackerman is quick to point out that the aging population could spell trouble for a fragile healthcare system. With 10,000 people turning 65 each day, providing the same level and quality of support people have come to expect will be a challenge.
“People 65 to 75 use up about three times as many healthcare resources as people 25 to 45 do, so the more seniors we have, the more strain on the healthcare system and the higher the cost,” he said.
The vast majority of seniors prefer to stay within their own homes as they age for various reasons. “When you look at the cost associated with being at home versus being at a nursing home or hospital or assisted living, the costs go up rapidly as you move more towards that hospital or inpatient or nursing home type of setting, and the satisfaction goes down. The best thing is when people can stay at home. It’s lower cost and there’s much higher satisfaction,” Ackerman explains.
With this shifting demographic, Ackerman has helped create the HomeStream System to address the cost of the aging population, the societal issues that it’s going to produce, and the way to leverage communication technology to moderate some of the costs and issues.
A Minnesota tech founder with HomeStream, Ackerman has over 30 years of experience in healthcare, business and IT. He is a former EVP and CIO at Vivius, where he led the development and operation of innovative consumer-driven healthcare products, and a former Director of Advanced Technologies and CIO at UnitedHealth Group.
His team includes a key developer of the CaringBridge system, an accomplished Fortune 100 executive, a healthcare software specialist, as well as individuals filling many other roles and a large team of advisors.
HomeStream addresses these problems by helping seniors successfully age within their homes through an easy-to-use platform which connects them with a wide variety of services, including remote access to healthcare services, in-home video televisits with clinicians, health education and coaching.
Their personal care data (such as blood pressure and glucose readings) and home biometric monitoring data link to their electronic health record. The system also allows seniors to communicate with their caregivers via secure messaging, as well as receiving calendar reminders.
HomeStream also provides seniors with access to e-books, audio books, movies and music, and allows for live video calls with friends and family members. In addition, the platform provides a way for people to virtually attend faith-based services, weddings, concerts, meetings or other events.
Because healthcare organizations (as well as other businesses) benefit from providing these services remotely, the hope is that they pay part of the cost of the system to help subsidize some of the costs of the end user. As organizations sign on and attract more users on the network, the value increases.
Funding from the City of Buffalo, the University of St. Thomas and the Blandin foundation has supported pilot testing in the Twin Cities and in four rural Minnesota communities, in partnership with a rural hospital and clinic, a city government, a church, a social services agency, and a senior housing and home health services organization.
The system also allows for remote volunteering. The Willmar Community Senior Network recently shared a success story about a 92-year-old volunteer serving as a foster grandmother at Head Start two to three times a week, unless it is too dangerous for her to go out in the icy weather. Using HomeStream, she has been able to volunteer remotely on days when she cannot safely leave her home.
Depending on funding, River Systems hopes to make a general product and service announcement in the second quarter of this year.