What do "Star Trek" and that "I've fallen and I can't get up!" lady from the Lifecall TV commercial have in common? Easy medical feedback and assistance. "Star Trek" introduced the fictional tricorder, a scanner that can analyze and diagnose medical conditions, and Lifecall developed a real-life wearable device which allowed people to request emergency help.
Now the two functions have merged together in a new service that isn't just on TV; it's really possible (although the tricorder function is handled by professional medical staff).
Seniors Wireless, a subsidiary of mobile virtual network operator emveno, is launching a combination mobile and telemedicine service for those 55 and over. Available only in the US, it provides an application called teleMED Assist which provides unlimited phone or video access to board-certified doctors, for any reason, anytime and anywhere (they provide a guaranteed maximum waiting time of 2 minutes). These doctors can evaluate, refer and prescribe medications for patients immediately.
Seniors Wireless also offers apps such as medication reminders, medication refills and emergency alerts to family or emergency personnel for assistance. Seniors Wireless stated, "the app services will continue to expand and will be further enhanced by the introduction of Apple Watch and other wearables, which will make mHealth [mobile health] the new technology frontier."
In addition to these medical apps, Seniors Wireless also sells phones and contract-free wireless plans which include an assortment of data, unlimited voice calling and text options. Existing phone numbers can be ported into their environment for those who wish to retain them.
How does teleMED assist work?
To access the service, Seniors Wireless members simply click the teleMED Assist button on the Seniors Wireless app or call the number directly via phone. An agent will respond and connect the caller to a certified medical doctor. Members can request assistance as many times as they like and call duration is not limited.
What other details are available?
I chatted via email with Zaccariah Swindells, Seniors Wireless CEO and founder, to get more information about the product:
Scott Matteson: How does teleMED Assist work from a technical perspective?
Zaccariah Swindells: teleMED Assist calls are routed via our app, wirless service or by wireline into our main switch. Members are verified by our consulting co-ordinators who then forward calls to emergency physicians in the state of the member. Once a call is connected to our emergency physicians, a video call is initiated via a link sent to our member and the consultation takes place.
Matteson: What devices does it run on?
Swindells: TeleMED Assist will work on any landline, mobile phone or wireless service. For Seniors Wireless mobile plans, phones are available for purchase on the website, but people can also use their own Sprint phones to become a member and utilize the plans. Phones available for purchase are: Unimax MXE675, LG Vigor, Samsung Galaxy S3, Sharp Aquos Crystal, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy S5.
Matteson: What level of support is provided?
Swindells: All members of the Seniors Wireless' teleMED Assist or wireless services have access to trained customer support via phone, email and video.
Matteson: I see that teleMED Assist offers "emergency alerting to family or emergency personnel for assistance." Just to clarify, does this include police or paramedics in the event of a life-threatening crisis?
Swindells: If our physicians deem it necessary that it is required, the appropriate authorities will be contacted.
Matteson: How easy is it to use/are there any language barriers?
Swindells: TeleMED Assist is extremely easy to use. Users simply click the teleMED Assist button inside our app or call a toll-free number.
Matteson: How did you arrange for development of the product? How long did it take/how many people involved?
Swindells: The planning and design of the offering has been in the making for 18 months and has involved individuals across three continents. There was consultation with medical, nursing, technical and — more importantly — the 55 plus community, into designing a specific solution that they wanted and desired.
Matteson: Please discuss how you set up access to medical professionals, and what was involved? Is it a single agency, multiple caregiver providers, etc.? I'm assuming there would have to be a wide geographic range of medical staff involved to provide 24x7x365 coverage.
Swindells: TeleMed Assist is supported by MedCallAssist LLC, a leading telemedicine company providing remote telemedicine consultations to maritime, medevac and native villages in Alaska since 1989. The service gained international clients in 2008 as communications resources improved. In 2010, telemedicine broadened to include small to medium companies, families both remote and urban, and adventure/outfitter groups. Currently, MedCallAssist operates in all of 50 US States, and in 20+ countries. Health plans, self-insured companies, worker's compensation plans, individual families, mobile carriers, maritime and remote industries all participate in the MedCallAssist service.
How much does teleMED cost?
The cost is $1 per day, based on a 30-day subscription. To become a member, seniors can subscribe to teleMED Assist and a wireless plan independently or jointly.
teleMED is a great example of technology making the world a better place, by connecting people who need medical advice with those qualified to provide it. I can see this helping to streamline health care by enabling people to skip lengthy wait times and avoid unnecessary emergency room visits. As someone with aging parents, it's good to know such options are out there if my mother and father should ever need them.
As for myself, I'm fortunate to be married to a medical professional who fixes me up after many my Inspector Clouseau mishaps (like many IT staffers my depth perception is a bit ... off). However, after almost 16 years of her remarks on the incredibly poor posture among certain IT people she knows (I can't fathom why) her patience grows thin with questions like, "Is it normal to have sharp stabbing pains in the bottom of your foot when you just got up?" Having a third-party service to whom I could refer such would be a real source of stress relief for both of us, though I'm not yet 55 ... except on some mornings.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.