Senior Housing News: You joined Dele Health Tech as CCO in February of this year. What experiences do you most draw from in your position today?
Delaine Blazek: One of my earliest experiences in life was that I spent a lot of time with both sets of my grandparents. That was what first made me embrace senior living. I wanted others to be able to experience older adults in a way that demonstrated the same vibrance that I remembered as a child.
Dele Health Tech was founded in 2011, and took on a new focus on senior housing two years ago. What does the company do and what changed in 2019?
Blazek: When the company was founded, they were looking at a variety of verticals, not just specific to healthcare. They shifted their focus exclusively in 2019, particularly toward senior living. There was a rebrand in the fall of 2020, which is where formerly IGT Technology turned into Dele Health Tech.
The reason that name was selected was to embrace the Norwegian roots of the name Dele, which means “to share” in Norwegian. We chose this primarily because we are serving as a middleware product so that we can exchange information, and share insights through our data fusion platform.
Dele Health sees three types of fall prevention technologies: wearables, video and sensor-based systems, which is your approach. Why is Dele Health Tech using a sensor-based system?
Blazek: Primarily because of the research that we’ve learned in relation to wearables. Our system actually serves as a complementary product to wearables. Our research indicates that in 85% of all the falls that we’ve detected, residents did not press their pendant. That could be for a variety of reasons. Possibly they just weren’t wearing it, they forgot, they were in a position where they couldn’t. There are many reasons. The important part is that with the Dele system, we are able to detect falls that would not have otherwise been detected through traditional nurse call systems.
That is one difference between the wearable and the sensor-based system. The second is accuracy. The sensors are highly accurate. They are non-invasive, they do not require a camera to record events in order to receive accurate alerts through the existing nurse call system or the Dele Health app.
One of the major challenges in fall prevention is when residents are in the bathroom. How does Dele Health Tech’s approach address this bathroom risk?
Blazek: Very similarly, it revolves around a privacy issue. The sensor-based technologies do not have a camera, so they are allowed in the bathroom. It’s very privacy-oriented and allows seniors to do what they need to do in private and with dignity.
Secondarily, as we discussed, sometimes people don’t wear the wearables. It’s not always the best source of a fall in the bathroom. Night time fits into the bathroom risk, too: 40% of all falls are in the bathroom, and a lot of that is due to the back and forth at night when someone may be a little groggy, slightly disoriented and traveling to the bathroom.
Dele Health uses the sensor system in part because the company follows the privacy philosophy of dignified technology. What does that mean, and why does it matter for operators?
Blazek: I think not only is it a European mindset, but it’s becoming much more prevalent in the States. You’ll hear many times, different communities are discussing aging with dignity, non-invasive and non-intrusive technologies and passive monitoring. All of those types of concepts are the precipice of what we’re doing here with Dele Health Tech.
It’s non-intrusive: It allows people to be protected with an extra layer of safeguarding without invading their privacy. They aren’t being monitored, they aren’t being watched — and they can feel confident that they will still receive the same accurate protection.
What kind of peace of mind does the Dele Health system deliver to families?
Blazek: It allows community staff to communicate more effectively with families in a way that allows them to educate and be more open about falls. It also allows the resident to be free from needing to press a pendant or pull a nurse cord to alert someone that they are down. Many times it may be the situation where they don’t remember to press it or they’re down and they are unconscious or in a physical state that would not allow them to press the pendant. It helps protect the seniors when they’re at their most vulnerable.
Additionally, occupancy is still low in some communities. We’re rebounding from that. Providing families and residents with the peace of mind and security can help influence occupancy. The marketing differentiator is that communities that have embraced this type of technology are concerned about resident safety and are making differences in their technologies to ensure current and future safety.
Dele Health is also bringing data fusion to fall prevention. What does that mean and what does it do?
Blazek: That’s a great question. Data fusion is the term that we have coined for our “sharing” platform. Multiple streams of data can be integrated into the platform, and we can put it through a series of algorithms that can determine when someone might be at a higher risk of falling.
Some of those data sources include information from the electronic health record, physical therapy observations, pharmacy details and any diagnoses or history related to a resident, so that we can provide not only hard alerts that are sent when someone has actually fallen, but also soft alerts so that we can prevent falls.
What was the biggest surprise to you about the senior housing industry in the first half of the year, and what impact do you think that surprise will have on the industry for the second half of the year?
Blazek: The biggest surprise to me is that we still have a lot of pent-up demand in relation to people needing to move and wanting to move into senior living communities. I think that as we open up and continue to socialize in the manner that we are accustomed to, we will see differences in what people will be interested in during the second half of the year.
I’ll be very curious to understand from the senior and family perspectives what they may prioritize pre-pandemic versus post-pandemic. Quite possibly it won’t be the physical attributes that they may have looked for in previous times, such as granite countertops or amenities. Residents and family members might want additional safety technologies and smart rooms, and desire extra layers of protection for residents at large.