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07/07/2014 News Release Image

GeriJoy and Pace University Win Pilot Health Tech NYC Award to Introduce Avatar-Based Caregivers to Mount Sinai Hospital System

Avatar pets to provide companionship and record vital healthcare data for patients with dementia

NEW YORK – GeriJoy, a leading provider of avatar-based elder care services, and Pace University have been awarded a $100,000 grant from Pilot Health Tech NYC to introduce virtual senior care companions to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital. The interdisciplinary gerontechnology experts at Pace University will facilitate a clinical study involving up to 500 inpatients. Expected benefits of GeriJoy’s 24x7 companionship, oversight, and health coaching include reduction in duration of hospital stays for older adults with dementia or delirium, as well as reductions in readmission rates within a 30 day period for such patients.

After a highly competitive screening process, Pilot Health Tech NYC, a partnership between New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Health 2.0, announced $1 million in grants to fund the adoption of innovative healthcare technologies in New York. GeriJoy and Pace University are among 11 award-winning innovator/provider pairs. GeriJoy and Pace will conduct a pilot, budgeted at close to $250,000, to introduce avatar-based care services to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital.

"We are honored to have been chosen by NYCEDC, Health 2.0, and their panel of experts for this award, and we are thankful for our continued partnership with the outstanding team at Pace University," said GeriJoy CEO Victor Wang. “The city of New York is a hotbed for healthcare information technology and entrepreneurial activity, and with the phenomenal support that we are receiving through Pilot Health Tech NYC, I know that GeriJoy will make a great impact on the healthcare and startup ecosystem in NYC."

GeriJoy provides virtual care services through the GeriJoy Companion, which appears as a lovable dog or cat in a specially configured tablet device, available to an elderly person round the clock. Through the live support of GeriJoy's remote care staff, who see and hear through the camera and microphone on the tablet, the pet talks with the older adult intelligently and compassionately about topics including family photos, news, and daily routines, providing companionship, stimulation, and family connection with no technical abilities required of the older adult.

The GeriJoy Companion reports back to caregivers to provide increased clinical insight and awareness of the patient’s condition. One of the aims of the Pilot Health Tech NYC project is to harness GeriJoy’s cost-effective, round-the-clock companionship and oversight to help mitigate danger due to delirium, the most common complication of hospitalization of older adults. Studies show that total direct healthcare costs attributable to delirium may range from $38 to $152 billion per year in the US.

“This simple to use avatar-based technology is a one-of-a-kind 24/7 companion to older adults, especially successful for dementia and delirium patients as we found in our beta pilot studies,” said Professor Jean Coppola, PhD, of Pace’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. “Families showed extreme gratitude for the virtual companionship for their loved one with the tablet-based cat or dog. Live, behind-the-scenes, well-trained staff members offer families peace of mind.”

"GeriJoy has proven itself to have a major impact on quality of life for older adults," said nursing professor Sharon Wexler, PhD, RN, of the College of Health Professions at Pace. "We are very excited to bring this cutting edge technology to older adults hospitalized at Mount Sinai Queens."

During the pilot at Mount Sinai Queens, inpatients who enjoy their GeriJoy Companion during their hospital stay will have the option to take their GeriJoy Companion home, where, in addition to providing general companionship and oversight, it will serve as a health coach to prevent readmission to the hospital. Under GeriJoy’s new CORE (Clinical Observation, Reporting, and Evaluation) Program, GeriJoy Companions can be assigned to ask patients specialized questions about their daily behavior, tailored to their clinical risk factors. The CORE Program focuses on three primary risk factors for preventable hospital readmissions, which hospitals are penalized for under the Affordable Care Act: heart failure, acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and pneumonia.

For example, propping up the legs of a congestive heart failure patient when sitting is an effective way to reduce risk for further complications, and one of the questions asked by the GeriJoy CORE Program of heart failure patients is, “Have you been propping up your legs when you sit down?” The data resulting from these friendly coaching conversations are analyzed by GeriJoy and reported to clinicians such as registered nurses or care managers, who use the insight from real-time alerts as well as weekly summaries and trends to better evaluate and mitigate risk factors for hospital readmission. PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that preventable hospital readmissions cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $25 billion annually.

 

Pace and GeriJoy were originally introduced through Pilot Health Tech NYC’s matchmaking events in 2013. Pace had already completed a pilot study investigating the therapeutic and quality of life benefits of the GeriJoy Companion for the elderly, using resources from a Verizon Foundation grant it received to support innovative technologies. The study, entitled "I Am Dougie, Your Virtual Service Dog: An Intervention to Address Loneliness in Older Adults," was conducted with home-bound seniors at Henry Street Settlement in Lower Manhattan. Findings included “improvement in speech, attitude, outlook, and behavior” of the older adults, who were originally “apprehensive,” “uncooperative,” and “belligerent.” Results were presented at the Aging in America 2014 conference and published in IEEE LISAT (Long Island Systems, Applications, and Technologies) 2014.

“Victor Wang, whose genius created the GeriJoy, has been listening to our feedback and continuously improving upon his amazingly creative and insightful technology which uses a tablet computer to connect isolated older adults with live human responders 24/7,” said nursing professor Lin Drury, PhD, RN, of Pace University’s College of Health Professions. “In our upcoming Pilot Health 2014 project the virtual service dog not only serves as a companion, but as a good natured health coach.”

About GeriJoy:

GeriJoy Inc. was founded by MIT researchers Victor Wang and Shuo Deng to improve quality of life for seniors and caregivers through friendly technology. The GeriJoy Companion, their flagship service, is a virtual, talking pet that is backed by GeriJoy’s worldwide team of 24/7 care staff. These dementia-trained remote caregivers guide the pet’s speech to provide elders with the experience of having an always-available conversational companion and friend. In addition to improving mental health for elders, the GeriJoy Companion provides peace of mind and valuable care management insight for family members and caregivers, through the web-based GeriJoy Family Portal. GeriJoy has been recognized by organizations like AARP, TEDMED, and the US Senate as a leading innovator in senior care. For more information, please visit http://GeriJoy.com.

About Pace University:

A private university, Pace has campuses in Lower Manhattan and Westchester County, N.Y., enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. The gerontechnology research team at Pace University is led by a multidisciplinary group of professors including Sharon Wexler, PhD, RN, and Lin Drury, PhD, RN, with the College of Health Professions; and Jean Coppola, PhD, with the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. Together, they combine computer science and information technology with public health and geriatric nursing expertise along with students who learn through working with providers in New York City such as Mount Sinai Queens Hospital, where Wexler is also on staff. For more information, visit www.pace.edu.  

About Pilot Health Tech NYC:

A program designed to dramatically increase innovation and collaboration within New York City’s health technology sector, Pilot Health Tech NYC is a partnership between New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Health 2.0 that pilots and advances new health technologies by partnering early-stage companies with key New York City healthcare service organizations and stakeholders.  The Pilot program provides a total of $1 million annually to fund at least 10 innovative pilot projects in New York City. Now in its second year, the inaugural class of 10 Pilot companies has already raised over $150 million in private investment since winning. For more information, please visit http://PilotHealthTechNYC.com

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U.S. News & World Report: "Best Online Bachelor's Programs"

01/29/16

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U.S. News University Directory: "Top 11 Online Graduate Criminal Justice Programs"

01/29/16

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Announcement from President Stephen J. Friedman

01/28/16

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Westchester County Business Journal: "Pace University President Friedman to retire in 2017"

01/28/16

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TechNewsWorld: "GoPro Shooters Can Send Live Streams Up Periscope"

01/27/16

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The Hill’s Congress Blog: "The state of dis-union in America"

01/27/16

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Financial Executives International Daily: "What, Me Retire?"

01/26/16