One of the first startups to join the AgeTech Collaborative™, FallCall Solutions was created by physicians with experience treating thousands of patients who sustained injuries due to falls. Even though some of their patients had traditional personal emergency response devices, many didn’t use them. Combining medical knowledge with advanced technology that is smart, simple and safe, FallCall is dedicated to creating convenient safety solutions that empower aging adults to live independent, active lifestyles.
We spoke with Shea Gregg, M.D., the president and founder of FallCall Solutions, to learn more about the company and how it plans to disrupt the personal emergency response system space with its groundbreaking technology.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What inspired you to found FallCall?
I’m a physician who works in the trauma bay on a daily basis, and I was seeing trauma victims who were not wearing their medical alert devices when they fell, and sometimes they would be down for hours. I was inspired when Apple Watch came out, because I thought: This is the future of an older adult getting help when they need it — in part because the watch is attractive, but also because I saw that the watch had the ability to have fall detection built into it. I wanted to design and build that myself, so I started the company in 2015.
Can you describe FallCall’s apps for us?
One of our apps is ElderCheck, which is a simple electronic check-in app: A caregiver can schedule regular check-ins with an elder simply to send a question to their Apple Watch or iPhone: “Are you OK?” If the older adult doesn’t want to be bothered, they can simply reply with an “I’m OK,” but it gives them the option of pressing “Call me” if they want to talk with the caregiver. It’s an electronic bridge that allows elders and caregivers to stay engaged, but the real purpose of the app is to mitigate social isolation.
In 2018, we launched the FallCall app, which is built for emergency situations. FallCall Lite is a medical alert-type system that connects into a central monitoring system. Our flagship app is FallCall Detect, which has the same central monitoring functionality, but also has smart fall detection. It allows the user to notify caregivers urgently when a fall from sitting occurs, and it will notify central monitoring and caregivers when a fall from standing occurs. Additionally, it keeps caregivers up to date — for example whether EMS has been dispatched, or if an ambulance is en route to the hospital.
How does the fall detection technology work? Does it work with both Apple Watch and iPhone?
We built that functionality in our lab. We used a mannequin as well as human models to study thousands of falls, and we generated hundreds of thousands of data points. This is where we discovered that the technology can differentiate between falls from a sitting position versus falls from a standing position.
We have plans to eventually go to Android, but we tuned the fall detection to Apple Watch, which the majority of our customers use. The iPhone app does not have fall detection, because people drop their phones. But we have four patents around differentiated fall detection for Apple Watch and other smart wearable devices. Also, we integrate the technology with pieces of Bluetooth-integrated jewelry that people can wear; they serve as extensions of FallCall that people can use to call for help.
Personal emergency response systems have been around for decades. What sets FallCall apart?
Adoption of wearables and mobile technology has been growing significantly among older adults. The aging population is on the go, and they want the convenience of a mobile device to go with them. These are all becoming important communication tools among older adults.
What I find curious is that there’s an industry that still exists out there, selling devices that connect to home-based devices instead of integrating into these mobile technologies that are only becoming more popular. So we hope to disrupt the industry completely by integrating into mobile devices, as opposed to a standard base station, as traditional systems do. Our mission is to make personal emergency response systems accessible, affordable and engaging for everyone who wants one around the world.
You were one of the first startups to join the AgeTech Collaborative™. How did you find your way to us so early on?
I was showing an early version of FallCall at a pitch event, saying that FallCall was going to change the personal emergency response space, which is technology that has been around since the 1970s and ’80s. A representative of AARP Innovation Labs came up to me and said, “This is great, but it doesn’t solve a major problem with medical alerts, which is how to let caregivers know whether their loved ones are actually using it. How will you address that core issue?”
So that gauntlet was laid down before us. I went back to my team, and after investing a significant amount of money, we discovered that you could send battery updates to caregivers, which would let them know whether the watch was being charged on the stand or charger, or if it was actually being used and drawing down the battery.
Fast forward to another pitch event where that same AARP person was one of the judges. I pitched FallCall and explained how caregivers can know if their loved ones are actually wearing the device and using it. Afterward, he came up to us and said, “I’m very impressed; you’ve really thought this through. We’d like you to work toward joining the Collaborative.”
How did going through the Innovation Lab’s accelerator help you?
The accelerator is where we started to think more about the product market fit for FallCall. We had questions about our apps, especially what the uptake would be among older adults, and among caregivers. The accelerator tapped into AARP research groups and forums, and what we found is that about 50% of older adults and about 80% of caregivers are interested in using FallCall apps. So we got validation that we were on the right track, and we got some design insights as well.
Please tell us about the success you’ve seen so far.
We’re trying to create technology that’s smart, simple and safe for people who live active lifestyles. Two key things to making our personal emergency system accessible to more people is having a downloadable app, and then — when people do need to call for help — connecting them to third-party call centers instead of 911. This provides a different level of engagement with caregivers, and makes older adults more comfortable because they don’t want to bother 911 all the time.
FallCall has taken off: We have thousands of users, and the phone calls just keep coming in. Recently, we announced an international expansion into Australia with new integration partners there and an expansion of products that will integrate with the FallCall platform.
What’s up next for FallCall?
Our next frontier is to go down the road of remote patient monitoring, AI, and data aggregation, with a goal of more efficiently delivering information. Given that it will be built by physicians, we can actually have a say in building a system that will be more effective in speaking to other physicians, healthcare professionals and health systems. Within the next couple of years, I am confident FallCall will make a new impact on the remote patient monitoring space and enhance patient outcomes.
Visit FallCall’s website to learn more about the company, their offerings and more.