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The "Smart Technology" Future Is Now

October 1, 2003
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Interview with Eric Dishman, Intel Corporation
The 'Smart Technology' Future Is Now

INTERVIEW WITH ERIC DISHMAN, INTEL CORPORATION Intel Corporation is known to most around the country as one of the world's leading technology manufacturers, primarily in the computer marketplace. But if Intel's Eric Dishman has his way, the company will soon be known for much more than that. Intel's Proactive Health Research program, led by Dishman, has jumped head-first into the aging services technologies market, first by teaming up with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging to form the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST), and more recently by partnering with the Alzheimer's Association on the Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer Care (ETAC) project. Through these associations, and on its own, Intel figures to be at the forefront of the next wave of technologies to hit the long-term care market.

Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management Assistant Editor Todd Hutlock spoke with Dishman about these and other topics.

Hutlock: How did Intel develop the Proactive Health Research program, and what was your personal role in its development?

Dishman: Intel has the largest social science group in the technology industry, and I'm one of those social scientists. We study people-not just the aging-in their everyday lives: at work, at home, at play, in all kinds of contexts in many countries throughout the world. We try to wake up not only Intel executives and engineers, but other companies we work with to other opportunity spaces they might not be thinking about.

In 1999 and 2000, just as broadband, cable modems, and the like were starting to come to the first homes in the United States, we did a study about the future of digital entertainment. We were showing concept prototypes and observing people in their own homes. We found that in almost any home with people over the age of 45 or so, many of the people weren't so interested in digital entertainment. They did, however, tell us things like, "My mom lives in Toledo, Ohio, and we live in Portland, Oregon. We need some way to look in on her and see how she's doing, because she insists on staying in her own home. We're really worried about her; no one lives close to her." We heard that kind of story often enough that I finally suggested to Intel that we brew up a project to look specifically at this aging-in-place challenge.

We looked at the demographics worldwide at that point, and we were particularly surprised that Japan and Western Europe are in an even worse aging crisis than the United States. The input from consumers combined with the demographic numbers, and my own passion-I did some caregiving for my grandmother with Alzheimer's, and I do a lot of patient advocacy work with elders with cancer-pulled it all together for me.

Hutlock: How does the Proactive Health Research program work?

Dishman: We start with the three Cs: cognitive decline, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. We chose the three Cs because of the predominance of people in their sixties, seventies, and eighties having those conditions. Most people with cancer (77%), for example, are diagnosed at age 55 and older. If you combine the costs of treating those three Cs just in the United States, it's more than $500 billion annually. If we can make an impact in those areas, it's going to make a significant economic difference, as well as benefiting the individuals.

Within each of the three Cs, there are three phases: explore, conceptualize, and test. The exploratory phase is where the social scientists are doing almost anthropologic field work-studying elders, care-givers, and the elders' adult children, including baby boomers. We're trying to anticipate what the baby boomers are going to be like as they move into their retirement years. It's not that we're ignoring today's elders, but we think there are different opportunities for this next wave of elders, because they have all these technologies-e.g., the Web, e-mail, cell phones, and instant messaging-that are a normal part of their everyday lives. Some members of that population are even big video game players. This exploratory phase represents our effort to help our engineers and the technology researchers we work with at universities understand what it's like to live the lives of these people. We obviously look for patterns and trends, as well.

In the second phase, conceptualizing, which is where we are now with the cognitive decline research, there are many prototypes. At this phase, we've taken everything we observed in the exploratory phase and we've now built prototypes from paper and foam core, as well as some functional prototype systems. We have started getting feedback about all these different ideas.

In the third phase we'll use the findings from the first two phases to narrow these ideas down and actually test systems in people's homes. We're already starting to build those systems and test them in little bits and pieces in some of our assisted living partners' facilities. The vast majority of the trials probably won't take place until February or March of next year, because it takes a while to build these functional prototypes.

We really believe in evidence-based technology research. We're modeling what we do after the way in which drug-delivery systems are developed. We don't want people purchasing these technologies, or the federal government reimbursing for them, unless they show some sort of benefit, such as reduced depression, decreased cost, increased patient satisfaction scores, or something.

Hutlock: Can you provide some examples of some of these projects?