Imagine being able to track your daily habits to detect and address potential medical emergencies before they happen. One Westchester startup offers a system it says can do just that, focused on the elderly and chronically ill.
Nonnatech, operating out of an office in downtown White Plains, says it is the first system to offer real-time monitoring and predictive analytics to track patients and cut down on the need for emergency room visits.
It works like this: a series of sensors are placed throughout a person’s home or assisted living facility to monitor daily activity. Sensors in the bathroom, chairs, floor, bed and more can track sleeping problems, whether pills are taken on schedule and unusual bathroom use.
Using predictive analytics, Nonnatech can discover and red-flag potential health problems before even the most attentive of caregivers might catch on.
Nonnatech’s founder and CEO Gary German gives the example of daily bathroom habits.
“If for the past month they were going to the bathroom twice a day, then all the sudden you see a pattern where they start going three, four, five times a day, that could be identify a possible issue, like a urinary tract infection,” German said.
The system can also do something as simple as turn the lights on and notify a caregiver if a person with a functional impairment gets up from bed at night, when German says a dangerous fall is statistically most likely to happen.
German said the devices are unobtrusive and don’t require the person to wear anything, such as a heart rate monitor. Instead they are placed in objects throughout the home.
While tracking daily activities might raise privacy concerns for some patients, German said Nonnatech is HIPAA compliant and gets consent from all users. The increased tracking is accepted as a way to allow for increased overall independence, he said.
“With older adults, they like the fact it allows them to stay out of a nursing home or hospital as long as possible,” German said. “So they understand, even if they feel they are giving up some freedom by having this technology in their living environment, they are able to go ahead and live in their communities.”
German drew on his own experience caring for his family for the idea behind his startup.
His grandmother had a stroke that required her to spend time in a hospital and rehabilitation center. After leaving rehab and switching to home care, German discovered his grandmother had been abused by a caregiver.
While he said she’s doing well now, “as much as you can for 90,” it pushed him to think more about how to better care for a rapidly expanding senior population.
He left a career in finance and incorporated Nonnatech in 2010. He calls his grandmother babcia, but decided to use nonna for the company’s name instead. It’s the Italian word for grandmother, which his wife uses.
He saw Nonnatech as a chance to make a difference in people’s lives he felt finance didn’t offer.
“I wanted to give back, as cliché as it sounds,” German said. “In finance, you are helping other people make money and you’re not really making a change.”
German had his mother in mind as he started the business as well. She became the main caregiver to his grandmother, and he said as a result she neglected her own health. She died in 2010. German said he believes she avoided going for treatment that could have helped her, instead focusing on caring for her mother.
“A lot of people look at seniors, but not the caregivers,” German said. “But they need help as well.”
So far, German has focused on selling Nonnatech’s system directly to caregivers, such as assisted living facilities and home care providers.
He said the company’s data has shown Nonnatech’s system is proven to reduce emergency room visits by 35 percent among elderly and chronically ill individuals. That can mean a savings of $500 per patient each month for a home care provider or assisted living facility.
Potential clients can pick from two pricing tiers: one starting at $89 per user each month and another at $119 per user each month. The higher-priced plan offers a filter of all incoming data to measure patient risk levels, plus an off-site call center and automatic notification of staff for certain set protocols.
German said he believes the platform can reach tens of thousands of users within the next couple years.
“Ultimately, there are 37 million adults with at least one functional impairment,” German said. “I’m not saying we can get all those 37 million, but that’s a huge chunk of America’s population that Nonnatech can benefit.”
The company is currently working to create partnerships with health care organizations, secure funding and improve its technology.
“We don’t want to be sitting on our hands not trying to make changes,” German said. “What we are now is very different from what we were even six months ago as far as technology.”
In 2014, Nonnatech was named a winner of a $1 million innovation grant by PILOT Health Tech NYC, a competition run by the New York City Economic Development Corporation focused on increasing innovation in health technology.
Nonnatech was featured that same year on the popular technology website Engadget.com with the headline “Your connected home could one day save your life.”
German also flew out to Milan, Italy, for an Internet of Things conference run by the IEEE tech professionals organization. Internet of Things refers to the way physical object interact through network connectivity. There, the group won a startup competition.
German views Nonnatech as being part of a revolution with sensors and the Internet of Things that he compared to the Industrial Revolution.
“We don’t want sensory overload, but I think it can be important and Nonnatech can be part of that revolution,” German said.
He said 10 years ago, his whole company wouldn’t have been possible. The sensors were too expensive and the software not yet developed.
“A decade ago, the biggest product out there was ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,’ the Lifeline you put around your neck,” German said. “We’ve come from that to where Nonnatech and other companies in this space are, and it’s just so, so different.”