FineThanx, an interestingly named service, takes a decidely low-tech but fresh approach to staying in touch with older adults or the disabled at home or on their cell phone. It’s a new automated service that calls your ‘special someone’ (as they put it) on a designated phone, up to twice daily. The automated announcement asks them to press 1 if OK (the ‘fine, thanks’), press 2 if not, where assistance might be needed. Email alerts then go to a predesignated ‘care circle’, which also happens if there is no answer after three attempts. What’s appealing about this is that the service uses something existing and familiar (a touch-tone phone) with no added equipment to create a wellness check-in–the ‘fine, thanks’ that is a ‘first step’, but often is all a family needs to know. The two founders, Rachel and Peter Scharff, developed this after a family crisis that a standard PERS couldn’t address. At present time, it is available in the US only. FineThanx website.
Not so FineThanx – actually
Interesting .. but ..
We have been able to (and do) provide a similar service in the UK under the name “Automated Safety Calls”. We’ve been doing it for nearly 6 years… Our service intentionally differs from the one mentioned in this article, because there is the option of a REAL HUMAN BEING determining an appropriate course of action when someone’s safety has not been confirmed. Also, we give the customers the option of very easily letting us know that they will be going away, or out for the day, which is essential for it to really work. But … you know what? We still don’t recommend this service for anything other than a small number of people, for a few very important reasons..
Why? Well, waiting in for automated calls (or calls from a volunteer service, for that matter) is for many people a bit of a prison sentence. Many people get stressed about “being in for their calls”. Many people, even in sheltered accommodation, find warden calls intrusive and unnecessary (although they do like the fact that a warden is on site to help when help is needed). Also, we know, as a fact, that only a relatively few number of people get on well with pressing a numeric key on their keypad – mid phone conversation – to confirm that they are okay. It can work, but talking from real experience, for a great many people it simply does not.
These factors yield lots of false positives and after a short while the nominated contacts begin to take the “alerts” less seriously and the value of the service diminishes. I have tested this out with many people: it is not speculation. From our experience we know that many people do not get on with it for long.
A much more elegant approach is to allow someone to easily check-in with a simple button press before one or more agreed times each day and to remind them to do that if they need reminding. Then that customer can check-in and go about their day. This promotes freedom. If someone then doesn’t check in, even after an automated reminder, a real human being can evaluate how best to escalate the fact someone has not confirmed their safety (or escalation to contacts can be totally automated, but only if it’s wholly appropriate to do that).
These services, and several other like them – are available from Alertacall (http://www.alertacall.com) – or as part of a wider telecare offering from people like Seniorlink Eldercare (http://www.seniorlinkeldercare.co.uk) and other monitoring centres that use Pellonia (http://www.pellonia.com) alongside their community alarm setup to ensure daily contact with service users. Anyone, anywhere in the world, who would like an out-of-the-box solution to offering these services themselves should get in contact with us as we can provide everything you need at every level.
Alertacall: Leader in Safety Confirmation
FineThanx – An elegant option!
James your input is very helpful, thank you.
One item to note is that for seniors with cell phones (and that community is growing very quickly) each of the FineThanx daily calls are actually a pair of calls, first to the home number then to the cell. This means that they are free to leave the house at any time and we will call them wherever they are. This also means that our system requires no hardware, just the phones they already have. Our calls also begin with a distinctive musical opening that becomes the trigger to simply press 1 and hang up. After a day or 2 of using the system people don’t even listen past the music, they simply press one and their care circle is notified.
One of the advantages of our system is that it does not require any effort on the part of the senior, no buttons to push and nothing to remember. If we determine that proactively contacting us indicating they are “FineThanx” is a desired feature we do have a simple and we think elegant solution ready to go.
Thank you very much for the comments. We are always open to ideas that might improve our system and give our clients a better experience. We really feel that it is the simplicity of the system requiring no equipment, that sets it apart. There are many new features that we can add, but our plan is to add them very slowly and carefully.
Peter & Rachel Scharff
FineThanx – Great to hear from you
Hi Peter and Rachel
Yes, we do the same, we make a call to the land line first and then their cell phone. Or any sequence of numbers and in any order, whatever works best for the end-user based on some simple questions we ask them.
We can also ring any number of times to any destination and play different messages to different destinations etc. We can schedule different times on different days, on a rolling basis of any length and have exceptions to that schedule up to 2 years in advance. If you can think it, our platform probably does it and that’s just because we’ve been doing it long enough to know all the different permutations of what a customer might want.. All of that potential complexity is hidden from end user, who sees the service from the other end of the telescope and just thinks “it’s simple”.
I think it’s really excellent whenever anyone develops a new service like this – especially one that aims to be simple. Simplicity means fewer points of failure, easier to understand, maybe even easier to sell. We strive towards offering services that are as straightforward as possible for end-users. I like the fact you’ve taken the telephony network and are trying to squeeze some more value out of it.. everyone is obsessed with “internet” when the plain old phone system is ripe with opportunities. It would be great to talk to you in due course