NEW YORK — Start-up Claris Healthcare, begun with the goal of keeping seniors safe at home, according to founder Geof Auchinleck, will begin shipping its first product in the fourth quarter, the Claris Companion tablet.
The device is a simplified all-in-one computer tablet that allows seniors to easily send and receive text and email messages; visit websites; and receive photos, event and medication reminders, wellness surveys and exercise programs.
The tablet is configured remotely using any PC, smartphone or tablet device with a browser. Family members choose from a selection of options to turn features and alerts on or off. They can also receive check-ins and “call me” notifications with one button press by the senior to keep apprised of their loved one’s daily activity and wellness.
Each Companion comes with a private email address and text message number that can be used by caretakers, family members and friends. The GUI presents all messages in a generic format in large, easy-to-read letters, meaning texts, emails and other push notifications all appear the same to the user. All messages appear with simple colorful onscreen buttons for Reply, Delete or Close. Replies can be sent using the onscreen keyboard, through voice-to-text recognition or via a menu on the left side of the screen. Any external Bluetooth keyboard can also be attached.
The retro-looking tablet has a 10-inch touchscreen surrounded by a curved bamboo frame resembling an old CRT TV with built-in amplified speakers and a mic. The Companion comes with a bamboo charging dock that doubles as a stand.
Photos from family members can be uploaded from anywhere. New photos are automatically displayed on the screen and are stored in a personal photo album. When docked and not in use, the Companion can be set to display photos in slideshow mode like a digital picture frame.
The Companion can be configured to remind seniors when to take medications or perform other health care-related treatments such as glucose testing. Alerts can be sent to family and care providers if reminders are missed.
The Companion will automatically alert the user to important activities such as appointments, visits, social engagements and birthdays, all set via a calendar interface by a loved one.
Though the Companion does not have a traditional web browser, “which can be very confusing to navigate for seniors,” Auchinleck told TWICE, it can be remotely configured by a loved one to access specific sites. Each website is accessible on the tablet by touching a large button that can be named however the configurer wants, for example, “Weather,” “Shopping,” “Banking,” “Games,” etc.
Simple surveys that require a response can also be scheduled. With the touch of one screen button, the senior can respond Yes, Maybe or No to any question configured. For users with mild dementia, Alzheimer’s or memory loss, questions can be scheduled in advance and repeated daily so well-being and compliance with daily routine can be regularly tracked. Daily wellness surveys can be scheduled that simply ask the senior how they are feeling. With the touch of a button (better/same/worse), wellness trends can be established over time and alerts can be sent to family and caregivers.
The Companion can automatically generate alerts sent to a loved one’s mobile device or email account if anything is out of the ordinary, such as missed medications, treatments or check-ins. Alerts can be tailored for specific family members or home care workers to follow up before an adverse event occurs.
In the morning, seniors can press the “check-in” button to send an email or text message to loved ones letting them know they’re okay. If the check-in button is not pressed after a configurable amount of time, an alert will be generated.
According to Auchinleck, many seniors recognize that loved ones lead busy lives and don’t want to disturb them. With a touch of the “Call Me” button, an email or text message can be sent to loved ones asking them to call when they get a chance. As a result, isolated seniors can reach out to family and friends without feeling like they’re being intrusive.
Auchinleck, a 30-year veteran of the medical device industry, was inspired to conceive the Companion by his own elderly mother’s skepticism of technology, such as struggling with her TV remote control. He set out to design a modern communications tool that was comfortable and intuitive and allowed seniors who often live in isolation to become more engaged.
His market research found that the senior population is expected to double by 2036, that 40 percent of seniors identify themselves as socially isolated, that 60 percent of seniors do not use a computer and that 45 percent of all health care dollars are spent on seniors.
Pricing is similar to a smartphone. The Companion is available in a Wi-Fi version at $549 with a $39/month subscription fee. The 4G cellular version is $649 with a $49 subscription fee. A lifetime subscription is being offered for $995 and that includes a Wi-Fi Companion. All the subscription levels include unlimited use of all alerts.
A video chat function is planned for a future model, the company said.