The Rapidly Evolving Personal Emergency Response Systems Channel & the COVID Effect

The pandemic has further stimulated the already rapidly evolving Personal Emergency Response Systems channel. Learn about the different offerings and opportunities to succeed by serving those customers.

The Rapidly Evolving Personal Emergency Response Systems Channel & the COVID Effect

(Image: Pixel-Shot/stock.adobe.com)

The fundamental benefits of Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) and Mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems (mPERS) through the years have been straightforward and understandably valuable. As technology and the supporting services that make up these remote monitoring and management enterprises matures, the market also continues to expand and deliver greater sophistication and value.

This has especially held true during the current challenging times with separation of loved ones and the lack of compliance as it relates to routine medical care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the base population and market continues to age, manufacturers as well as service providers are committed to delivering a meaningful variety of products, platforms and quality services. The many elements affecting the evolution of this sector include change and growth in technology, marketing to new verticals and, of course, the need created by a rapidly aging population living longer than past generations.

This has created the need for additional and expanded remote care and monitoring beyond the traditional requirements of care through physician visits, hospitals and institutions.  

Therein lie the opportunities for security dealers, integrators and monitored systems providers. Let’s zoom in for a closer view. 

RPM Revs Up 

One segment that has experienced great growth, acceleration and maturity is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) or TeleHealth. Although RPM may not be a service offering or channel all security firms are positioned to adopt, more are giving it a go as either a full-service provider or simply as the technology and emergency services element of the offering.

Well before the pandemic, RPM had developed some meaningful momentum. Between advancements in technology, development of clinical call centers and adoption for subsidy by Medicare, RPM was maturing at a rapid pace.  

That said, the unfortunate initiation of the pandemic did cause a significant acceleration in remote, virtual physician visits due to the necessity of social distancing and shutdowns. As the pandemic continued much longer than most expected, physician visits and healthcare compliance suffered and, in many cases, led to worsening of health issues and diseases for some people.

This hastened the RPM systems need and implementation. With many subscribers these systems are augmented with in-home PERS monitoring that has resulted in exponential growth of this hybrid offering. 

RPM comes with a variety of components. The in-home solution is comprised of the base system, peripheral monitoring devices such as blood pressure, pulse, oxygen, scales, temperature, glucose, etc.

The element that brings it all together is the backend portal — mobile applications and clinical dashboard that interface with hospital systems as well as clinical call centers for proper patient monitoring, notifications and management. These are the main components, but all elements of the ecosystem may not be necessary for every patient.  

For example, the foundational system is typically a cellular-based, 4G LTE PERS base station with RPM capabilities required for all subscribers. The type and extent of peripheral monitoring devices will vary from patient to patient based on their conditions and/or requirements. The backend and clinical dashboard that supports the monitoring and communications is an essential element where these services will vary.  

In the simplest form, the private pay market typically subscribes to the services for a variety of reasons and utilizes the platform, mobile applications and portal to log and monitor a loved one’s vitals. This is also utilized to communicate results to physicians during an in-person or virtual visit.

The only professional monitoring structure element would be as it relates to the traditional PERS segment of the system by a specialty, wholesale center such as Rapid Response or COPS. Anelto is an example of a manufacturer offering the hybrid RPM approach by developing the hardware, portal and dashboards. 

The subscriber base typically subsidized through Medicare or other government programs usually mandates the inclusion of a clinical call center and/or additional support services beyond the typical PERS reactive monitoring.

Some of these services may be available through monitoring providers like Rapid Response or COPS; others on the clinical side may entail different third-party relationships. Those alliances bring the additional support of achieving proper compliance beyond monitoring vital sign threshold variances.  

In some structures, supporting a clinical care organization with management of the technology and PERS monitoring element may be a good channel for a traditional PERS company. A variety of creative relationships could allow a traditional company to participate in a portion of this growth market even though they don’t provide the clinical support side of the offering.

Aligning with home healthcare agencies and other clinical-based organizations provides a path for certain, skilled technology partners that understand and serve a portion of this channel. 

One segment that has experienced great growth, acceleration and maturity is Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) or TeleHealth. (Image: DragonImages/stock.adobe.com)

mPERS Travels Well  

Certain platforms have provided a great contribution to expanding the reliability and value-added services now available along with a traditional PERS or mPERS subscription. In addition to the value that cellular communications offer, location-based services leveraged along with GPS and WiFi pinpointing have allowed manufacturers to develop improvements that provide tremendous additional value over legacy systems and platforms. Some of these features and additions that at one time were niche are now mainstream.  

The key feature of most mPERS solutions is the ability to track a user accurately and rapidly utilizing the GPS location-based tracking technology and features. It’s important dealers understand that just because a manufacturer states that a product is mPERS, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it uses GPS and the best of location-based services technology available.

In fact, it doesn’t even assure what technology is used to attempt location accuracy. Understanding the type of location-based technology and cellular evolution utilized is essential, and the first step in deciding on an mPERS vendor partner. 

In the past and even sometimes in this current market, some products simply use A-GPS (assisted, or augmented, global positioning system) as their sole technology. Although A-GPS is valuable when used in conjunction with GPS, alone it pales in comparison and really doesn’t offer a lot of value.

Both technologies help determine location. GPS devices do so by directly communicating with satellites moving around the Earth; A-GPS devices use information from network stations based on cellular technology employed in the mobile terminals. 

Because GPS devices communicate with satellites, they perform best under clear sky conditions and when satellites are reachable without any interference. As A-GPS devices are connecting with cellular network stations, they communicate even in cloudy atmosphere and terrible satellite conditions, but experience problems when the cell network is unreachable. 

In those instances, A-GPS devices fall back to the GPS feature for a more accurate location, if available. When these two technologies are properly used in conjunction, it allows your central monitoring center to know where the subscriber is when they press their emergency button or when their fall detector is activated. Systems that use A-GPS in tandem with GPS bring up a location faster to an operator rather than waiting for the satellites to analyze and deliver. 

Pairing WiFi With GPS  

Layering in WiFi location-based services along with GPS typically affords the most accurate and fastest location pinpointing. The addition of WiFi addressed the persistent issue of gaining a location of individuals who are indoors or in a large building. 

By utilizing the WiFi access points database, monitoring centers can now assess the location of an individual in a building. Did you ever “check in” with Facebook while at an airport and the first choice is the actual gate where you are located? Well, this is how Facebook and others accomplish this. You don’t need to be logged into the WiFi; it uses their location without the need of authentication. 

The most important element of any mobile or cellular device today is the assurance that it is certified as a 4G device. 3G sunsetting is well underway, with coverage thinning out on a regular basis. Sunsetting of 3G in its entirety is slated within the next year and replacing the non-LTE 4G units is essential. The good news regarding migration to the 4G network is hidden within the acronym LTE, Long Term Evolution. The 4G network is anticipated to have a lifespan that extends to mid-2030s and possibly beyond. 

With everyone concentrating on minimizing attrition (the holy grail when operating a subscriber-based, recurring monthly revenue business), an essential element is to make sure you are deploying the proper products. Providing current products that won’t require replacement or perform erratically in the near future is a moral and best practice obligation that should mitigate attrition and additional liability.

It’s borderline negligent to deploy any cellular products that are not 4G or the current cellular evolution at this point; systems are widely available and it is the responsible choice when selecting technology for your clients. 

Communicate with your manufacturing and platform providers. Many solid and creditable providers currently supply the industry. World-class organizations like the aforementioned Anelto, Climax and MobileHelp are already integrated and monitored by third-party monitoring companies such as those referenced in this article and have proven track records in these markets.  

The PERS, mPERS and RPM markets are growing rapidly. The current climate and maturity are drivers in consideration of the value of this opportunity into an existing technology company. As a dealer or integrator, this makes it a great time to investigate and better understand if this is a channel where you want to take your company to achieve market expansion and new revenue opportunities. 

About the Author

Contact:

Peter Giacalone is President of Giacalone Associates, an independent security consulting firm.

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