2021 Speech Industry Award Winner: HandsFree Health Keeps Seniors Safe
We’ve all seen the “I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up” commercials on TV for years. The technology is not new, but one tech startup, HandsFree Health, is revolutionizing the market with a complete line of voice-enabled products to help the elderly stay safe and healthy in their homes.
HandsFree Health, which is based in Harleysville, Pa., makes the WellBe voice-enabled virtual health assistant platform, which does far more than call for help at the press of a button. WellBe is a complete system that can of course call for help, but it also allows seniors to access information about their health; call their doctors, caregivers, or family members; receive answers to health-related questions; upload readings from hundreds of connected medical devices; and control their home environments using just their voices. It even reminds seniors to take medicine, attend a doctor’s appointment, or order prescription refills.
“Your medical alert system should be much more than just emergency care help,” says Mike Cardillo, cofounder and CEO of HandsFree Health.
WellBe runs on artificial-intelligence-based technology from Microsoft. Simply saying “OK WellBe” activates the technology, and this simple command gives users access to everything WellBe has to offer, including entertainment and news from partners like Spotify, AudiobookStore.com, iHeartRadio, NPR News, AccuWeather, and more.
And through a number of system upgrades announced in the past year, the system is now available via a smart watch, smart speaker, or mobile app.
The smart watch was added in September and can also be used as a heart rate monitor and pedometer, provide medication and appointment reminders, and record blood pressure, glucose levels, and weight.
Bluetooth-enabled smart medical devices, including blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and smart scales, can now upload vital information into the secure HandsFree Health platform instantly. Users can then track trends through voice recall or in the WellBe virtual assistant or mobile apps. The expanded ecosystem includes popular medical devices from top manufacturers like iHealth, Accu-Chek, Strava, Omron, Dexcom, Withings, and more. And the system fully complies with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
“With these new integrations, HandsFree Health helps users better manage their health by pulling information from home health devices into one easy-to-use platform controlled by their voices,” Cardillo says.
Additional system enhancements introduced in January included integrations with a number of smart home devices, such as lights, small appliances, and door locks, from companies such as Tp-link, Schlage, Lutron, Kasa Home, HomeLink, Genie, Ecobee, Wink, Logitech, iRobot, and more.
The WellBe smart speaker, smart watch, and mobile apps now operate hundreds of smart home and medical devices using simple voice commands.
Technology like that offered by HandsFree Health became especially important in the past year when the COVID-19 pandemic prevented people from regularly checking on their elderly relatives. It was easy for seniors to feel alone, but HandsFree Health was there to overcome the isolation.
HandsFree Health also this year was selected to join the Microsoft for Startups program to help it further develop its voice platform for healthcare. As a member of the program, HandsFree Health gains access to Microsoft’s technologies, including its Azure cloud infrastructure, as well as a streamlined path to selling alongside Microsoft and its global partner ecosystem.
Microsoft and HandsFree Health worked together to integrate Microsoft Azure Custom Vision with HandsFree Health’s platform to make prescription entry as easy as taking a picture.
In collaboration with Microsoft, HandsFree Health will further develop its remote patient monitoring capabilities, advance the health content available, and work toward integration with electronic medical records (EMRs).
“HandsFree Health’s unique approach to in-home healthcare represents the type of company we want to align with as part of our startup program,” said Sally Ann Frank, health and life sciences lead at Microsoft for Startups, in a statement. “Their use of AI and voice technology on a HIPAA-compliant platform has the potential to provide more efficient care and reduce re-admission rates. We look forward to playing a role in their continued success.”