Geof Auchinleck’s 92-year-old mother can’t work her TV remote, but thanks to the new tablet computer he designed, she can now send and receive emails, among other things.
The beta version of the Claris Companion can also remind her when to take her medication, allows family to send her photos and emails, and if she needs to talk to her son, she doesn’t even have to call him – she just touches the “call me” icon on her tablet.
“I’ll get a text message on my phone saying, ‘Call your mom,’” Auchinleck said. “So she can do that without remembering my phone number.”
Auchinleck’s company, Claris Healthcare Inc., plans to eventually add video conferencing with doctors and pharmacists to allow seniors to get consultations without leaving their home.
A biomedical engineer, Auchinleck founded Neoteric Technology Ltd., a medical information management company that he sold to Haemonetics Corp. (NYSE:HAE) in 2009.
Last year, Auchinleck won a $100,000 Manning Innovation Award for the blood transfusion management system Neoteric developed and used the money to bootstrap Claris Healthcare.
Auchinleck realized that, as communication changed with the advent of the Internet, email, social media, texting, digital photos and mobile devices, seniors were being left out. He also realized there were e-health opportunities to be harnessed with tablet technology, so he set about designing one that is simplified specifically with seniors in mind.
The Claris Companion is a stripped-down and repackaged Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.
It has been designed with a bamboo wood frame and charging dock to tone down the technological look.
The tablets can be preconfigured by family members when bought online so that, when it arrives, it’s ready to use right out of the box.
It can be configured, for example, to remind seniors when to take their medication and, if they fail to acknowledge they have done so, it will send a family member an alert to their smartphone.
The beta model is Wi-Fi only, so it requires a home with Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi hotspot. The next iteration will be cellular-enabled for customers who don’t have Wi-Fi in their homes.
The tablets are sold with Wi-Fi plans, so users don’t have to deal with Internet service providers or mobile phone carriers.
“We’ve simplified all of the functions to the point where virtually everything is pushed to the seniors,” Auchinleck said. “To receive an email, you don’t need to log on, launch a web browser – it just appears on the screen. The whole idea is to make it dead easy.
“We will be providing one- button touch that will get a pharmacist to call you back and talk about medication issues.”
The company is also working with Medeo, another local start up, which is developing a platform that will allow patients to connect with their doctors by video chat.
“One touch of a button, and they will be put in a queue to speak to an on-call physician,” Auchinleck said. “They’re like a walk-in clinic, but over the Internet.”
So far, the seniors who have been using the tablet find it easy to use, Auchinleck said. The feature they seem to like most is photo sharing.
“All of the seniors seem to just love getting photographs. In the digital photo era, people aren’t printing pictures out and sending them anymore, so they’re kind of left out.”
The tablets can either be bought with lifetime Wi-Fi for $995 or for $99 for the tablet and $59 per month for Wi-Fi on a two-year contract.