Much of the hardware used in the study is simple, widely available and inexpensive. Plus, it's getting smaller and smaller, so it can be deployed in elders' homes much less obtrusively. However, "the thing a lot of people don't realize is that although the hardware appears to be the hard part, the data management is the hard part," Hayes said. "Really, the bulk of our technology research is focused on algorithm development" and the ability to mine and manage the data these devices collect.
Study co-author Misha Pavel, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and computer science and electrical engineering at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering, says studies on systems and technology such as those being developed by ORCATECH are "a critical precursor of changing reactive health care to proactive care for individuals."
A more proactive health care approach may be essential to managing the rising cost of health care for aging baby boomers. And "being able to stay at home and maintain independence represents a significant improvement in quality of life of many elders who like to remain as long as possible in their familiar environments," Pavel noted.
The ability to continuously and discretely collect activity data over extended periods of time has given researchers a new, more accurate way of "identifying clinical changes that are difficult to get your arms around in the typically designed practice we have nowadays," said ORCATECH's director, Jeffrey Kaye, M.D., OHSU professor of neurology and biomedical engineering.