By Padma Nagappan
Count Cambridge, Massachusetts-based BioSensics among those companies working on a fall prevention offering that uses wearable devices equipped with accelerometers and other devices to help diagnose the early signs of a fall before it happens. By studying gait, stance, time to get up, time to sit down, and other metrics, BioSensics hopes to help the elderly and others whose balance has been compromised.
Given that one in three seniors falls each year and that falls account for a high percentage of 911 calls from seniors, the problem has become a major concern for healthcare providers as the population ages. High medical costs are also associated with falls, since they can prevent the person from living independently and often require therapy afterward.
"But we're lucky, today we have wearable sensors," BioSensics CTO Bor-rong Chen told attendees at WLSA's Wireless Health 2012 event in San Diego last week. "At BioSensics, we have motion and physiological sensors that help patients take care of medical conditions."
PAMSys is one such sensor that can be integrated into clothing and has an extended battery life of more than 200 hours, that can detect posture, gait, the number of times the person rises, sits, steps taken and correlation between speed of getting up and time to get up -- all of which Chen said can be used to evaluate rehab treatments, medical prescriptions and interventions.
"If you can tolerate putting more than one sensor on yourself, we can also measure when you stand on one leg or both legs and your stance as it shifts. Also, if you can tolerate putting even more sensors on your lower body, we can tell you about your stride -- [your] gait," Chen said.
These readings will help caregivers evaluate whether an alert was for a real fall and help them avoid false alarms and measure the acceleration when some one gets up.
Funding from the National Institute of Aging helped the company first conduct a limited clinical study on fall simulation. In that study it collected data on nine different ways they can fall. A second study tracked 18 adults for 48 hours and Biosensics discovered there were no false alarms. A third study of only seniors also did not trigger any false alarms, according to the company.
BioSensics is currently conducting studies in partnership with the University of Arizona's Center on Aging.