Intel to Map Plans for $200 Million, 10,000 Seniors Health Study

Posted by: Olga Kharif on April 14, 2011

Intel Corp. will help fund work on a proposal for a $200 million study of technology used to provide in-home care for seniors, Eric Dishman, an Intel fellow and director of health innovation, said in an interview.

The study will examine use of technology by 10,000 seniors, Dishman said. Intel is looking for partners that can put up funding for the proposal and the study, and will complete a proposal outlining the study this year, he said.

As part of a five- to 10-year endeavor, researchers plan to use sensors, Web-connected computers and other devices to capture data about seniors’ daily activities, such as when they take medicine and how quickly they move about the house. The purpose is to prove that the technology can track cognitive and physical decline and to understand how technology can help providers better care for seniors in home settings, rather than hospitals and other facilities where care costs have skyrocketed in recent years. The market for so-called aging-in-place technology is expected to surge. Global revenues from home monitoring of patients with diseases like diabetes and cardiac arrhythmia should rise to $16.6 billion in 2015, from $11 billion last year, according to Swedish consultant Berg Insight.

“There are likely to be more older people who’ll need assistance living at home,” Andre Malm, senior analyst at Berg, said in an interview. “It’s a way to improve quality of living for patients who want to live at home. What’s needed is good, independent research” to prove that at-home technologies work. The number of Americans aged 65 or older will rise to 72.1 million by 2030, up from 39.6 million in 2009, according to Administration on Aging.

One goal is to prove that at-home technologies can be useful in early detection of diseases, and alerting caregivers to emergencies such as falls, Dishman said. “I am sure we’ll figure out ways to increase fall prevention and reduce depression,” he said. Computers might remind consumers with Alzheimer’s, for instance, what they discussed during a previous conversation. A door sensor may notify a caregiver that a senior hasn’t gone outside for four days.

“You can address a problem sooner, before it becomes clinical,” Paul Crawford, director of health product research for Intel Labs, said in an interview. “Intel is trying to bring independent living into the digital age. It’s in analog age now.” Crawford and Jeff Kaye, a professor at Oregon Health & Science University, are leading the work on the proposal. The study is expected to be administered by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

The study may begin as early as 2012, if additional funds are secured, Dishman said. His SILvR (Senior Independent Living Research) Initiative study could cost $200 million over 10 years, and would eventually track some 10,000 households with seniors, he said. The exact cost of the study will be determined this year.

Potential backers of the proposal work include The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Science Foundation, Dishman said. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which provides funding for public health projects, is “intrigued by the idea,” Paul Tarini, senior program officer at the foundation, said in an interview. The organization has talked with Intel about the study and is now awaiting a funding proposal.

Intel makes chips and software used in at-home care. The company and GE Corp. formed a joint venture focused on telehealth and independent living technologies in August.

Intel has invested in senior healthcare technologies for 12 years, funding more than 100 university grants, Dishman said.

Once the proposal is completed by year-end, Intel will push U.S. and European Union authorities to fund the study, Dishman said. Intel has also talked with White House officials, including Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, and is pushing for the study to become a presidential election issue in 2012, he said.

“It’s too expensive even for Intel to single-handedly produce the clinical and financial evidence that these technologies detect diseases and lower costs,” Dishman said. “Even competitors need to come together and co-invest.”

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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