BY MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
Want to know the future of health care in the United States and around the world? If you live in Las Cruces, just look up.
The top two floors of the city’s tallest building – originally the First National Bank Tower and later Wells Fargo Tower – are occupied by Electronic Caregiver (ECG), which now has its name on the tower at 506 S. Main St. and is setting the standard and continuously raising the bar for home health care technology.
Through ECG’s research and technological innovations and partnerships that range from New Mexico State University to Amazon Web Services and Intel, founder and CEO Tony Dorhmann is articulating a vision to “transform the industry of home care.”
“People are paying attention,” Dorhmann said in a Jan. 31 interview. “There aren’t a lot of Las Cruces companies doing these kinds of things.”
Electronic Caregiver recently took over another floor at the tower and introduced Addison Care, “the world’s first virtual caregiver,” according to ECG’s website, “named after its ambient augmented reality virtual caregiver, Addison, a state-of-the-art, 3D-animated caregiver designed to engage aging and chronically ill clients throughout the home to supplement their care and provide various health and safety features.”
Health care costs will more than double by 2050, Dorhmann said, and those aged 65 and older have already seen a 400 percent increase in the cost of their health care in the last 20 years.
“Nobody can afford this,” Dorhmann said, especially the elderly, who suffer from multiple chronic illnesses and often take various medications. Along with serious health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes, seniors must deal with balance impairments and other side effects from the potent drugs they take, he said. Not surprisingly, falls are their No. 1 health complication.
And, in addition to paying for regular doctor visits and prescription medications, seniors are spending hundreds of billions of dollars yearly to deal with the side effects of combining drugs and failure to follow treatment programs, Dorhmann said. In fact, he said, 50 percent of treatment failures are the result of non-adherence because a patient forgets to take his or her medications on time or can’t remember if a medication has been taken at all and doubles the dose.
ECG has an answer to all these issues, Dorhmann said: Encouraging a patient “to interact with technology that is far more capable and enjoyable than it’s ever been before.”
And, he said, it’s available for a reasonable monthly fee.
In addition to reminding clients to take their medications, ECG’s virtual caregiver, Addison, conducts regular wellness checks, monitors vitals and provides emergency response and physician-on-demand services. Appearing on 15-inch, in-home monitors, she can carry on two-way conversations and is “programmed for a user’s personal needs and plans of care,” according to the ECG website. She can talk to clients about their health and a wide range of other topics like hobbies and yoga and can even send gifts to clients.
Through home health care monitoring, Addison can conduct a virtual examination, do a gait and fall-risk assessment, provide nutrition and fitness support, detect a lack of activity, deliver a range of notifications and even provide an outdoor pollen count.
ECG is working on the perfect balance for Addison so she’s “not too human and not too toy like,” Dorhmann said. “It’s not just a voice, it’s an experience.”
The results are “lower costs and proven outcomes,” he said, including reductions in patient mortality, pain and suffering, hospital visits and health complications, a lower cost of care and better overall health outcomes for patients and their families.
“We’re going to be helping people worldwide,” said Joe Baffoe, president of Addison Care, an ECG subsidiary.
“Insurance companies are very happy (patients) are complying with treatment plans,” Dorhmann said. And health care providers are loving it, he said, because ECG can provide all kinds of data to a patient’s clinical dashboard and for medical research – all while complying with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which mandates the privacy of an individual’s medical records and health information.
It’s also taking the burden off family members whose lives have been disrupted because of the care demanded by aging and infirm parents and other relatives, he said. And, it’s reducing the stress on seniors not only in terms of cost and quality of care, but because there is much less worry about losing their independence, Dorhmann said.
ECG’s existing and developing partners include physicians and home health care providers, along with rehabilitation centers, medical equipment companies, hospitals, senior living professionals, specialists in everything from audiology to eye care and a host of device partners.
With thousands of customers and nearly $40 million in investments so far, Dorhmann said major investment banks and “big strategic partners” are pumping additional capital into ECG. Future plans include building a tech campus on Las Cruces’ East Mesa with 1,100 employees.
Dorhmann founded ECG seven years ago, and since moving it to Las Cruces has more than doubled his workforce to 100-plus employees.
For more information, visit www.electroniccaregiver.com.
Mike Cook may be contacted at email@example.com.