New York, NY—Many seniors typically eschew technology, which can complicate communication between the elderly and their loved ones. And with the coronavirus pandemic still raging, it complicates still further the elderly’s ability to check in with their primary care providers. But a new technological innovation now makes it possible for seniors to communicate with their doctors right from their TV set.
Last week, ArchCare, the Archdiocese of New York’s healthcare system that every day cares for more than 9,000 seniors, the poor and persons with special needs, announced that it will install MedSign’s Qortex Telehealth System for all ArchCare Senior Life participants.
According to ArchCare, Senior Life is a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a community-based healthcare model created for people 55 and over who require nursing home-level care but prefer to receive it in their own familiar home surroundings.
Qortex is the first telehealth system that connects healthcare professionals to patients through their home television set rather than a computer or smartphone. The system was designed with seniors in mind for ease of use.
We spoke with the inventor of Qortex and CEO of MedSign, Tom Conroy, about the new technology and how easy it is for seniors to use.
When he first designed the system, he thought about it from the perspective of his 93-year-old dad, a World War II veteran.
“Seniors are technologically averse, they don’t want to pick up a smartphone, they don’t want to deal with a tablet or computer, but the one thing they know how to use is their television set,” said Conroy.
So, he applied the protocols of the TV remote control and made it really simple for seniors. For example, when a video call comes in from a doctor, from a loved one, from a therapist, all they have to do is press “OK” on their remote control and they’re connected.
Conroy noted that by allowing seniors to connect with healthcare professionals via their home TV set, the Qortex telehealth system enhances safety and wellbeing for them because they don’t have to be concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus. In addition, by being able to connect via video with their loved ones, they’ll feel less isolated and lonely.
“They’re able to talk to their loved ones, they can talk to their doctors—you have to think about these seniors, this Covid-mandated isolation is literally creating mental anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts,” said Conroy.
“When you see them [healthcare professional or loved one] on a 40 x 80-inch TV set, it’s almost like they are there with you, so it calms the mind.”
Conroy explained that the Qortex system is composed of three pieces: a camera, the senior simple remote control and the hub, which connects to the internet via the cable company’s router. A technician arrives to initially connect the hub to the cable company’s router, and then sets up a preassigned username and password in order to connect to the Qortex network.
Once the setup is complete, a healthcare professional such as a doctor accesses the website, www.qortexconnects.com, logs in and types in the patient’s name, say, Mary Smith. Her name appears on the doctor’s screen, and he or she selects it. A message is then generated to Mary Smith, which appears right on her TV set. Using her remote control, she selects “OK” to begin the video chat.
Conroy stressed that the technology is compatible with any TV manufacturer. The introduction of the new technology is repurposing how individuals interact with their TVs. Indeed, MedSign is waiting on FDA approval for the Qortex system to be used for a comprehensive medical examination in the home.
“Just like you do when you walk into the doctor’s office, they take your temperature, they take your blood pressure, they check your weight, we’ll be able to do all that through one device. That’s the future—remote patient care,” said Conroy.
And the Qortex system has applications in different sectors, such as education. Conroy noted that the company repurposed the Qortex system, the telehealth product, to a Qortex tele-education product by integrating a mouse and a keyboard.
“There’s 120 million homes of TVs, and now children can be studying at home on their TV set rather than a little 13-inch screen on their smartphone,” Conroy said.
Conroy sees more exciting opportunities as the technology evolves. For example, the Qortex system is based on an open architecture platform, which means that any major telehealth company can embed their product onto the Qortex platform to reach a demographic they currently can’t reach.
“For instance, if any one of the country’s leading Telehealth companies want to reach the demographics they can’t reach right now, they could become a partner, port their system over and have access to their senior customer base,” said Conroy.
The technology was about to be adopted internationally, but then Covid struck in March 2020. According to Conroy, the Chinese government contacted MedSign in early March about the possibility of a deployment. The government in China, which oversees the world’s second largest economy, was interested in second opinions before an operation for its citizens from Northwell Health specialists here in the U.S.
Still, Conroy is hopeful that as vaccinations roll out, he’ll soon be on a plane to China to seal the deal.
Yet another application for the Qortex system is the cruise ship and cargo ship industries. Conroy noted that there are 60,000 cargo ships out at sea every day. When there is a serious injury on board a cargo ship, it has to call on the nearest port to treat the injured crew member. And diverting cargo ships from their routes is costly. Just last year, it cost the industry $400 million.
“Well, wouldn’t it be great if you could have a wall-mounted Qortex system that could connect to a medical facility like Northwell Health via a satellite connection so that a Northwell physician can see the injured crew member and make a decision on treatment with the ship’s medical officer,” said Conroy.
The next 36 to 48 months is going to be an exciting time for MedSign, as the company fields more inquiries from a variety of companies who want to reach customers in the home.
“That’s the future of the technology, and the TV is an integral part of this. Think about it—a senior’s eyesight isn’t that good. Isn’t it nice to see your doctor on a big screen TV and talk to them, feel comfortable, safe and secure in the comfort of your home—that’s what it’s all about,” Conroy said.