Many Americans live in fear that an elderly parent will fall at home and get hurt without anyone there to help. Thanks to a fast-growing field known as telemedicine, that worry may become a thing of the past.
Lutheran SeniorLife, a faith-based nonprofit in Pennsylvania that runs senior living communities, has found that by having frail, elderly residents wear a sports watch–like health monitoring device that is part of a system called the MobileCare Monitor, nurses' aides can respond quickly if there's a fall. The secure, FDA-cleared system, sensing the fall, instantly sends a text message to the aide's smartphone and an alert to a Web-based interface called a CareStation.
The MobileCare Monitor is made by AFrame Digital, a Reston, Va.–based firm that is among many players now entering the booming field of telemedicine. Medical providers in this niche use data sent from one site to another via wireless tools, two-way video, smartphones and other electronic forms of transmission to take care of patients and keep tabs on their condition.
Globally, the telemedicine patient-monitoring market grew from $4.2 billion in 2007 to more than $10 billion in 2012, according to a report from Kaloroma Information, a publisher of medical market research with offices in Rockville, Md., and New York City. The U.S. alone claims nearly half that number—$4.1 billion in 2012—and its share is expected to soar to $8.7 billion by 2017.