15 January 2018

INNOVATE - Hightech Health Device Intervenes in Falls

For Seniors, a fall can be devastating, a hallmark event that often precedes death

One of the most useful intervention technologies at CES 2108 was the Hip'Air belt.

This story has a personal connection for one InfoStream contributor who, in March of 2012, lost a father who fell and broke his hip nine months earlier. That this injury could unleash a sequence of health issues that would ultimately kill an otherwise healthy mobile man in less than a year was troubling.

Hip'Air is a lightweight belt that incorporates an airbag to protect a person's hips and pelvis in the event of a fall. This device is similar to the protection vests and neck wear used to protect riders and other athletes. Because a lanyard or similar initiator can't be used, the technology uses accelerometers to detect precursors of a fall  developed from fall research.

Within the first 280 milliseconds of a fall profile detection, the airbag deploys from the belt and directs energy away from the hip and pelvis. This shielding reduces the risk of injury and immobility of a person falling. Within 30 seconds the air shield deflates, allowing the person free mobility. 

The Hip'Air belt is fully automatic, rechargeable (15 day battery) and ships with an extra washable mesh cover. Replacement energizer gas cartridges are also available. 

Clipping the belt fastener together automatically turns the system on and lights a small green led indicator. Low battery signal includes an audible signal and lights a small red led indicator.  

The impact of fall injuries are often very severe. Surgery, protracted  recovery periods, infection, permanent loss of mobility, the end of independent living and even death are possible outcomes. The cost of fall injuries to healthcare systems is very high especially in seniors over 65. In this particular cohort, falls are a 'hallmark' event meaning a predictor of other serious medical conditions or even death which can occur within twelve months of a hip or pelvis fracture.

The Hip'Air device is expected to make this type of injury 94% preventable. Preventing these injuries would have an immediate impact on the wellbeing and health of seniors as well as on the billions of dollars spent in the healthcare system resulting from falls. 

A Dutch company Wolk is also testing a similar device that it hopes to introduce to the European market during 2018. 

The prices for this device are expected to range between US$500 to US$800 for the belt and between US$90 to US$120 for the energizer gas cartridges.

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