Peace of Mind for $750 a Month

Are you worried about your senior-aged parents living alone? Would you feel better if there was a computer system monitoring their vital signs and sending that information to a nurse every day? Would you pay $750 a month for that peace of mind? A company in Needham, Massachusetts believes that at least some of you will.

Dovetail Health is one of the newest entrants in the growing field of remote monitoring. The company is currently testing a service in ten homes that tracks the health of seniors via a computer hooked up to their phone line. Every morning the seniors weigh themselves and take their blood pressure. The computer sends the information to the company’s headquarters where the numbers are reviewed and a nurse is on call if anything is out of the ordinary.

In the four months since testing began they found one client taking twice as many pills as prescribed, advised one client on how to rearrange her home to make falls less likely, and for a third client, found a local aide who could help her chop vegetables.

Dovetail charges $750 per month for this service, which includes a medication consultant, occasional nurse visits and 24-hour phone help. Medicare and most insurers won’t cover home-health monitoring for healthy seniors, offering only flat fees to patients recuperating from hospitalization.

That hasn’t discouraged the company, who believe that healthy seniors will be willing to pay to keep themselves out of a nursing home, while their children will pay for peace of mind. Still, the cost is high for some families. A researcher at MIT believes the concept is “an interesting idea for the higher end” but that in providing security, it is also taking away independence.

The Boston Globe, December 1, 2006
www.boston.com