Almost daily technology is revolutionizing our world and particularly in the health sector, medical devices are saving and improving lives.
No longer are these devices exclusive to the bigger countries, they are right at our fingertips.
At the touch of a button, the elderly and other vulnerable people can summon emergency help using the safe and well device right here in Barbados.
The novel product launched more than a year ago by Caribbean Telehealthcare Services (CTS) is useful for anyone who falls ill or are caught alone in an emergency.
“We are your first and only emergency call because once you press that button we do everything from there, if you need the police we get the police. Press the button and you get the help that you need,” explains Angela Francis, Director of Caribbean TeleHealthcare Services.
“This device is for anybody who wants to keep safe essentially. So it can range from our Grandmas who are at home spending time alone to a 14-year-old daughter who suffers with asthma and just wants to have that ability to summon help quickly at the press of a button.”
Francis says the response has been so far “fantastic” particularly among families who want to maintain a close eye on their elderly who are often prone to falls and other accidents.
Upon sign up, clients are provided with their home unit, which uses GSM mobile phone technology. The user wears a pendant around their neck and wrist, which they can press if they need assistance.
“So if you have got someone who spends time at home or lives alone it will be a unit that goes in the home and then they wear the pendant that goes around their neck or wrist. If anything should happen to them – an emergency, an incident, just press the button on the home and well safe device.”
The signaling device contacts CTS, which is staffed with professionals who can immediately assess the situation to determine the level and type of care needed and then dispatch the appropriate help.
“Once we receive an activation, we are actually able to open a two-way conversation and we will stay with our client on that two-day conversation until help arrives. Now that help can be in a number of forms – your ambulance service, your police or the fire brigade depending on the situation. It may be a daughter or a son who needs to come around and help you.”
At the start of the service, clients choose how they want to be treated in an emergency.
According to Francis, CTS offers a reliable service and it has adequate safeguards in place to protect its clients.
“Our reliability level I would say is probably about 97 per cent. We really are up there in terms of reliability. We have a back up so what happens is our main platform is a cloud based platform but what we also have as a back up is a regular telephone system. So if for whatever reason you are missing our cloud based platform – your activation would still come through our telephone system.”
She added that once the call for help is received, clients immediately receive assistance
“It is like a two-way call. You are going to press the button to ring us and within minutes we call. That’s how quick we open that conversation and we’re speaking to you straight away and from that you get your re-assurance, because from that you’re speaking to someone, a trained responder, a paramedic, or an emergency medical technician and they are trained in terms of emergency treatment and in terms of crisis management.”
CTS services, which moved to a 24-hour operation in January last year, are headed to Jamaica.
Francis says they are also preparing to expand to other islands, since the cost of the service is competitive.
“One of our home units, is BDS $299 to buy the home unit and install it into your home and then for the 24-hour remote monitoring – we are there 24 hours a day because anything can happen at anytime, it’s BDS$ 49.99 per month. “
For the more active client, there are more advanced systems.
“ You can actually have two-way conversations through the pendent. For example if mom is the garden and I am also there and she has an incident such as fall which is a classic situation – she will press the button on her pendant and we can have that two –way conversation through the pendent . That is the sophistication, and that product is BDS $1399 but the monitoring is the same BDS $49.99 for that monthly monitoring.”
Another system allows the client to use mobile phone technology while younger users can download a smart phone app to access the service.
“The handset phone carries two important features. At the back of the phone is an SOS button so if anything happens they simply press the button in the same way. For young clientele … we do an app that sits on your smart phone and that will work exactly the same way. So any incident, any emergency, you press the app on your phone and again that will come through to our monitoring centre.”