Public Release: 

U of MN receives $1 million technology grant to expand assisted living services for the elderly

Grant will address lack of affordable health care services through telemedicine

University of Minnesota

Elderly people living in some of the poorest regions of the state will have improved access to health care services due to a $1 million grant the University of Minnesota received from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Virtual Assisted Living Umbrella for the Elderly (VALUE) telemedicine program will combine videoconferencing technology, Internet access, and home monitoring devices to provide assisted living services to frail elderly persons living independently in their home communities. These individuals will be able to retain the benefits of remaining at home, in familiar neighborhood surroundings, while having access to needed resources. The impact of the VALUE program in supporting participants ability to remain in an independent living situation will be studied.

"The growing demand for assisted living services, an aging but increasingly independent population, and shortages of professional health care workers are converging to limit access to affordable assisted living services," says Stanley Finkelstein, PhD., professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at the University of Minnesota's Medical School. "We have an opportunity to use these technologies to bring health services directly into the homes of elderly people who otherwise would not have access to such services." Finkelstein and Stuart Speedie, Ph.D., also a professor of laboratory medicine and pathology, are principal investigators for this study.

VALUE will include two clinical partners that serve both urban and rural Minnesota. Volunteers of America of Minnesota serves some of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis; TriCounty Hospital in Wadena serves three of the poorest rural counties in the state. Both partners are in areas with an increasing elderly population and limited numbers of affordable assisted living facilities. The partners will install central monitoring sites, train staff, recruit subjects, install VALUE units in the elderly subject's homes, train subjects, and conduct videoconference visits. The University of Minnesota will direct the study and evaluate the program through a randomized trial.

VALUE is supported by a grant from the Department of Commerce's Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), and matching funds from industry partners NONIN Medical, Inc., and QRS Diagnostic, LLC and from clinical partners Volunteers of America-Minnesota and Tri-County Hospital. TOP promotes the widespread availability and use of digital network technologies in the public and non-profit sectors. TOP awards grants for model projects demonstrating innovative uses of network technologies. The organization then shares the lessons learned from theses projects to ensure the benefits are broadly distributed across the country, especially in rural and underserved communities.

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