A visit to Philips Lifeline (US)

Laurie Orlov blogs about her visit to the Philips Lifeline HQ… listening to calls being received and dealt with at a call centre is indeed a moving experience that deepens anyone’s understanding of the need for such services. But this is also a piece with some interesting statistics: they take 8 million calls a year, only 3% of which (almost a quarter of a million) are actual emergencies. It would be interesting if any of the large UK telecare call centres would like to offer similar stats for comparison.

Read: A visit to Philips — the call is a communication lifeline.

[However, with estimates that at least 50% of people who have pendant-type alarms do not have them within reach when they need them, we can add to the above statistic another quarter of a million people who were in trouble because they could not call for help. It really drives home the point that there is an urgent need to put in place (as standard) telecare systems that do not rely on the active participation of the person to trigger an alert. Steve]

4 thoughts on “A visit to Philips Lifeline (US)

  1. preventative telecare technology
    Preventative technolgy to enhance the functionality of basic alarm pendants has been available for several years. In Scotland, in the form of basic activity monitoring, it is actually used main stream. Modern telecare sensors genarate activity data as well as performing the basic alarm function. Software is available to analyse the activity data but this requires an additional resourse. The benefits of prevetative technology are clear to all, what is not so clear is who (which department) will provide that resourse.

  2. Lifeline Emergencies

    We should not read too much into any statistics from Lifeline organisations that mention number of calls and the number of emergencies.

    The total number of (in-coming) calls include mistakes, test calls, and automatic equipment calls (e.g. low battery), as well as genuine emergencies. When calls from wardens signing on and off are included, UK centres receive between 1000 and 2500 calls per 1000 customers per annum. Of these, audits have shown that the number requiring the emergency services is in the range 0.2% of calls up to about 2%, which is rather lower than the percentage quoted by Philips. This variation may be a result of different definitions of what constitutes an emergency. (Is the late arrival of a meals-on-wheels service an emergency? – it might be if you happen to be a diabetic and need to eat at set times. Similarly, is a blown light bulb in the bathroom an emergency? – it could be if you need to go to the bathroom during the night and you have poor balance, poor eye-sight and osteoporosis). However, the greatest variation is likely to be in the training given to call handlers, and their ability to resolve a crisis without the need for the emergency services, as well as the availability of informal carers and of telecare response teams to attend incidents and to avoid their escalation into emergencies.

    We should not forget the fact that the US is immature in terms of telecare delivery compared with the UK. Their monitoring centres are bigger, more remote, and lack local knowledge about local geography and community services. Their call handlers have considerably less access to the informal care networks and local telecare response teams that are being built in the UK. Consequently, they are more likely to have to rely on the emergency services as the only possible action.

    Steve is right to say that increasing use of passive alarm sensors will enable genuine emergencies to be detected and identified when the individual is unable to activate a pendant. This will permit person-centred protocols to be followed depending on the time of day, and the calls history, ensuring that the most appropriate response is offered as soon as possible.

  3. Lifeline
    Sorry they didn’t see a day when 800,000 of their subscribers where left out of luck because Philips Lifeline cannot handle their call volumes. 06/04/08.

  4. Monitoring and Loneliness

    “Ironically, only 3% of the (8MM) calls received are actual ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” emergencies. The vast majority are ‘test’ calls to verify that the base unit and button device are working properly — and many of those ‘test’ calls are just to make contact with a human being.”

    I think this says something for a base unit that makes real live reminder calls at certain times, or a support system that uses the device to “look in” on the older person.

    “Alone and in your 80’s with an emergency response device as a link to the outside. No wonder baby boomer women are so right to think ahead about shared housing to make them feel safe in their later years. Though I’m not sure if that will be an alternative to a response center staffed with guys like Frank.”

    I think I’d rather have the shared housing, and sensor-based passive monitoring as a backup.

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