According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the U.S. among seniors. Over a quarter of American adults age 65+ fall each year, resulting in more than 3 million injuries treated in emergency departments, including over 800,000 hospitalizations annually.

Falls can threaten an individual’s safety and independence, leaving them reliant upon assistive services and caregivers for help with everyday activities. However, falls are not an inevitable part of aging. With a combination of lifestyle changes, fall prevention programs, a safe home environment, and the support of connected care devices such as personal emergency response systems (PERS), falls among seniors can be substantially reduced.

Next Generation PERS Used for More than Just Falls

PERS, also known as personal emergency response services, were originally created as fall alert systems for older adults. In the 1970s, these simple pendants with a button in the center were worn around a senior’s neck and were highly effective if they fell or needed assistance in their home.

Fast forward nearly five decades later, PERS have come a long way. Not only are some PERS now available in stylish and sleek wearables and watches, but they are also mobile and Wi-Fi-enabled offering more capabilities. The service often involves more options as responders, including caregivers, family members, and emergency medical services (EMS). Some PERS technology offers synchronous two-way voice communication with built-in Global Positioning System (GPS) capabilities. In addition, certain PERS are underpinned by sophisticated technology platforms that have artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and 24/7 call centers staffed by teams of trained professionals ready to support the varying needs of seniors from common fall incidents, health-related issues and non-health related needs.

Support for Social Determinants of Health and a Wide Range of Care Needs

Although PERS has traditionally served as a fall alert system, some PERS have evolved to support a wider range of care needs and services. The unfortunate truth is that falls are not the only obstacle facing seniors today. Many older adults lack basic access to transportation, nutritious food, medications and quality healthcare. In fact, more than one in five seniors lack reliable transit, and one in 10 are considered food insecure. These barriers, also known as social determinants of health (SDoH) factors, result in billions of unnecessary healthcare costs and thousands of premature or preventable deaths.

This is where certain PERS are going beyond the button. By supporting factors of SDOH and other daily challenges facing seniors living independently at home. Connect America’s PERS provides access to more than just standard fall detection. In addition to fall detection and remote monitoring, users have seamless concierge-level support for a wide range of needs, including access to assistance for transportation, meals, groceries, pharmacy, and more, all with the press of their connected device.

Mobility and Activity Monitoring

Also, certain Connect America PERS have been built with enhanced mobility and activity tracking that can help address and predict potential health concerns or general safety issues. This type of PERS technology can capture movement and activity — such as daily steps — through the wearable device. This is important because activity, or lack thereof, can be a strong indicator of potential issues such as a future fall, cognitive challenge or adverse health event. For example, if an individual typically takes 1000 steps a day but suddenly has taken only 50 steps in a day, this may signal a problem or that a care intervention should take place. By alerting care providers of potential health-related issues, this technology can enable healthcare organizations to deliver more proactive care that focuses on prevention and addressing issues before they worsen or become acute.

Location and Away Services

Supplementary services are available for caregivers or family members of individuals with mild cognitive challenges adding an additional layer of safety for greater peace of mind. For example, using GPS technology, a PERS device can be set with geofencing parameters where a virtual geographic boundary is established. When a user wearing a PERS device moves outside that specified area, the software is designed to trigger an alert to a member of the person’s care team or family. In addition, GPS enables the identification of the user’s precise location so that assistance can be immediately dispatched to the appropriate site. There is also an optional Away Service that sends notifications to loved ones when the user leaves and returns to their home location.

The ROI: Cost-Effective Solution that Reduces Healthcare Costs

PERS helps support a wide range of conditions, not just falls. It’s also a highly effective solution for healthcare payers and value-based care organizations due to its ability to help lower unnecessary healthcare utilization and ease healthcare costs.

Data collected from an internal PERS analysis found that Connect America’s PERS was widely utilized for individuals with symptoms related to conditions including respiratory issues, general pain, gastrointestinal issues, cardiac symptoms, and stroke. This research showed favorable news for rising healthcare costs and the strain on hospital staff, with 53 percent of the PERS calls-for-assistance covering falls and 47 percent non-fall health issues. In addition, less than half resulted in hospital transport. Regardless of the challenges faced by seniors in the home, nearly 90 percent of all PERS subscribers did not require escalation to higher levels of care.

In that same study, results showed that individuals monitored by Connect America’s PERS and CareSage analytics and reporting platform demonstrated a significant reduction in readmissions, ED visits and overall hospitalization costs, including a 68% decrease in 90-day readmissions with a corresponding triple decrease of proportion in patients with any 90-day readmission, a 53% decrease in 180-day readmissions, a 49% decrease of 180-day EMS encounters, and a 31% decrease in hospitalization costs. And, especially important to healthcare payers – PERS is a smart investment to drive quality and lower costs. In fact, for every dollar spent on PERS, $7.19 is saved in healthcare costs.

Imagine the future with integrated connected care technology that enables more of the growing senior population to live independently and well at home. Imagine that with just the push of a button, individuals can connect to transportation services, food delivery, or have medications delivered directly to their homes. Imagine a world where caregivers and health professionals are alerted to potential issues so they can intervene earlier before a problem becomes an ER visit or hospitalization.

That future is here, and these powerful advancements are all a part of the Connect America Home™ platform. What was once a pendant with a button to access emergency services now delivers access to a whole new world of remote monitoring and specialized services to assist those who wish to age safely and well at home for as long as possible.