Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Traditional Phone Service Retiring Sooner (or Later)


Rumor has it that traditional phone service in the U.S. will go the way of the dinosaurs in the next decade. The FCC has posted information with dates referring to 2017 and 2018. The traditional carriers can't wait to get away from it. 

The Wall Street Journal says: 
"In January, the FCC decided to allow carriers to launch "experiments" aimed at weaning people off old, circuit-switched phone networks."
PC World article states: 
"A rural Alabama town and a suburban area of Florida may be on the cutting edge of a historic shift away from traditional circuit-switched phone service, if AT&T wins approval to run trials in those areas. The carrier plans to test a transition from its circuit-switched TDM (time-division multiplexing) phone network to wireless and Internet Protocol services in Carbon Hill, Alabama, and West Delray Beach, Florida. It will need FCC approval to begin the trials."
"As full-time residents on Fire Island try to get life back to normal following Hurricane Sandy, Verizon Communications is using the barrier island as a test case in eliminating landline telephones. “We’re extremely vulnerable. You need the security of a landline,” one resident said. As CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan reported, Sandy submerged parts of Fire Island, destroying underground copper wiring. As a result, home service telephone transmission to the barrier beach was cut. Instead of costly replacement, Verizon is using Fire Island as test case, offering all 300 permanent residents and dozens of businesses a wireless alternative it calls Voice Link. But data and Internet access come at a monthly price. Locals complain they’re now without faxes and alarm systems. “I feel that they left us hanging with no real options to get our business back up and running,” restaurant owner Jon Randazzo told McLogan. Without a landline, Randazzo had no way to process credit cards and was forced to do it manually using his cellphone."

It's time to plan ahead for any product or service that uses regular telephone lines to work. It seems abundantly clear Verizon and AT&T will be out of the traditional phone business sometime soon. Verizon spent $3.6M on direct contributions in the 2012 election cycle and $15.2M on lobbying.  AT&T spent $6M on direct contributions in the 2012 election cycle and $17.46M on lobbying.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What the Heck is Palliative Care?

After a conversation with my colleague and neighbor, I decided to do a bit of research on palliative care. If you are hanging out in the medical reform circles, you hear a lot of buzz words like patient-centered home, reimbursement rates, etc.  After hearing enough of this stuff, it is nice to hear a "system" that is already in place, called palliative care, that provides a good model. 
Ask your medical professionals about the availability of palliative care for yourself or your loved ones. If you are developing a care-tech product, look at incorporating it use into palliative care. Where does it fit? How will it enhance quality of life or positively influence the course of illness? 
Here is some info from the CSU Institute for Palliative Care website:
Palliative (pronounced PAL-lee-uh-tiv) care is health care that focuses on improving quality of life and comfort for patients with serious or chronic illness. It focuses on relieving the pain and physical symptoms as well as the emotional stress, fear, frustration and spiritual concerns that major health problems can create for those with serious illness(es) and their families. Palliative care is provided by team of professionals, typically including doctors, nurses, social workers and spiritual counselors. 
Palliative care can be received at the same time as other treatment and has been proven to help those with serious illness live longer, have a more rewarding life and to ease the stress on those who care for them. It is available for patients of all ages who are at any stage in their illness. 

Palliative care:
·       Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.
·       Enhances quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness.
·       Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care.
·       Uses an interdisciplinary team approach to address the needs of patients and their families. This typically includes a physician, nurse, social worker, pharmacist, chaplain and others as needed.
·       Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible throughout the course of an illness.
·       Offers a support system to help loved ones cope with stress during the patients' illness and in their own bereavement.
·       Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to cure an illness or prolong life, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical procedures, etc.
·       Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.
I highly recommend signing up for the free caregivers handbook available from the CSU Institute for Palliative CareThis is an electronic version of an excellent San Diego County caregiver resource.  To get the e-book, you must subscribe to the Institute's consumer quarterly newsletter which keeps you updated on the latest information about easing suffering and improving quality of life for those with illness.  Click Newsletter cons (consumer) in the subscription screen or add any of the other items if you want the professional information.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Creating the AH HA Moment – It’s the Language

It’s the Language!  I’ve been shopping lately for my latest project, an aging-in-place home remodel for our own home. I had a big AH HA moment last week. – the language we use in our industry is kooky. I’m looking for an ADA-height toilet and when you go to Amazon to find an ADA Toto toilet, you get a title that says ADA. When you go to the Home Depot, the ADA toilet is called a “luxury height” or “comfort height” or “chair height” toilet. Now, which one do you want to buy … the ADA disabled toilet or the luxury one?

I also saw a title of a book the other day called “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”  which includes strategies for “going geriatric.” Staying Put versus Aging in Place. Hummmm. Which one do you think would vibe better with seniors?

Creating the AH HA Moment  I gave an Internet talk to a group of 50 older adults, most were 70+. Three had iPads. Part of the talk was geared towards iPads since a gerontologist (who is 80+ and brought me to the group) was annoyed that more people didn’t have tablets. It was interesting to see the AH HA moment when the audience members figured out they should be considering a tablet instead of a computer. What caused the AH HA was 30 iPad screenshots of a variety of apps – there was one in there that anyone could relate to. “I didn’t know they could do all that” was the common refrain.

Many of our aging in place tech products don’t position themselves properly to create the AH HA moment for the target demographic/psychographic. High-touch selling practices, infomercials, and hands-on events are important strategies that vendors should investigate for their AIP tech product. I almost never talk about frailty-oriented AIP tech products to audiences of older adults but invariably discuss them one-on-one after the talk is over. (But, I do talk about automated pillboxes as a great item for their cat or dog.)

Geezer Squad  The same gerontologist also has been encouraging our local Apple store to hire some older adults. He thinks that the “kids” they have working there don’t understand older adults and can’t help them decide to get a smartphone or iPad. I’ve also heard that from other older adults. We hear the same complaints about the Best Buy folks and their Geek Squad. But, should those businesses design their installation and support around seniors? Probably not. But, if they “designed for all” would other customers be happier? I bet so.

The Challenge  I’d love to hear from you what language changes you’ve made, what AH HA moments you’ve seen and successful high-touch installation and support scenarios work. Tell me. Please. Every one in our industry needs to know.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

3 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Tech-based Senior/Boomer Product

First, the mantra: It's not about technology. It's about people and solving their problems.

Over and over again, I talk to folks who are creating the next-big-tech-thing for the boomer or senior market. And, many times, these very nice folks have not thought through the difficulties in creating or selling to a market they don't truly understand.

Answering these three questions can give you some clarity.

What do people need? What are people already buying?
Yes, I know. They NEED your product. But, do they really? Have you asked them if they need it? What do they say when you tell them about your product? Have you tried it out and had success?  If your product doesn't fit a need, it will be hard to sell. Defining the need versus want aspect of your product is imperative. Here's an example. Seniors generally need a pillbox. But you have to make them want your electronic version because it does X,Y or Z that makes it something important to them or makes replacing the status-quo reasonable.
If you are trying to launch a new industry segment, beware. Reality bites. Yes, your new gadget may solve a big problem. If it is health related, people may think it should be covered by insurance (most are not) and won't purchase it if it isn't. If it is lifestyle related, it won't be purchased if it is perceived as an "old person" product.  You will not only have to sell the product but you have to sell the concept of the product as well -- complications that are expensive.

Do you really know your target? 
Look at these words. Which ones fit your target user?
  • Frail, weak, sick, memory-impaired
  • Needs help with activities of daily living
  • Healthy, active, busy, engaged
  • Family-oriented, pets, grandchildren
  • Isolated, sad, depressed
  • Poor, lower income, median fixed income, generous income
  • Lives at home, at a senior facility 
  • Boomers born between 1946 and 1964  
  • AARP members are 50+, average age 69, more info
  • Senior deals can start at 55, 60 or 65 or 80 if you are a skier
Who will make the purchase decision?
If your product is designed for the aged, infirm market, the purchase decision is normally made by an adult child - the person who is the default caregiver. Here is a great infographic on caregivers.
If your product is designed for people in senior living facilities, your product must fit into the existing workflow, solve a problem, have tangible benefits and have history or solid ongoing support and reliability.
If your product is purchased by healthy older adults, lucky you. But remember, they are people, just like everyone else, and expect to be treated as such and find your product where they normally shop.
Now, that you've thought about who will make the decision, you need to figure out how to reach them. Are they buying your product in an emergency (mom fell and is getting out of the hospital)? Ask your potential customers where they'd expect to buy this product. Don't forget about online sales either direct or though eBay or Amazon.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I Love Dropbox

I love Dropbox. It is one of the best and easiest to use applications I've ever touched. Did I mention that it is also FREE?
So, you say, great, it's easy, it's good, it's free. But what the heck does it do?  It is computer file storage made easy or says Dropbox, "One place for all your stuff, wherever you are." Sounds boring but it's not.

I use an iPad, an iPhone, a Kindle Fire and 3 or more desktop/laptop computers at any given time in my workday. Okay, I know, I have too many contraptions. But, Dropbox makes it really simple to save my work to their cloud and work on it from any one of these contraptions. Yes, there's an "app for that" on all of these devices.  I travel on occasion and I never have to worry about what machine I'm using. I was recently in Hong Kong with only my iPad and needed to upload a client file for sharing via Twitter. Dropbox to the rescue -- I added the file to my Dropbox and then shared its Dropbox link via Twitter. 
You can share documents, pictures, videos or whatever floats your boat. You can be sure that your files are safe in case you have a fire, spill stuff on your contraption, run over your phone, or find your 2 year old granddaughter delightfully deleting items from your computer desktop. Use Dropbox as a backup for important items or save your main files. It's up to you.
Seems a bit confusing to start, but, truly, it is the easiest setup ever. Go to the Dropbox website and set up an account. Download the software for your computer. Then download the app for your phone or tablet. Enter your login information and, viola, all the files you save there are available on any of your devices or via the web.

Here's more yack from their website: "Dropbox is a home for all your photos, docs, videos, and files. Anything you add to Dropbox will automatically show up on all your computers,phones and even the Dropbox website — so you can access your stuff from anywhere. Dropbox also makes it super easy to share with others, whether you're a student or professional, parent or grandparent. Even if you accidentally spill a latte on your laptop, have no fear! Relax knowing that your stuff is safe in Dropbox and will never be lost. Dropbox makes sharing easy. Invite your friends, family, and teammates to any folder in your Dropbox, and it'll be as if you saved that folder straight to their computer. You can send people links to specific files, photos, and folders in your Dropbox, too. This makes Dropbox perfect for team projects, sharing party photos with friends, or recording your band's debut album."