Startup looks to simplify iPad interface for dementia patients

By: Neil Versel | Apr 11, 2013        

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Clevermind iPad appA startup mobile app developer is testing and preparing to launch an iPad app intended to help people with dementia (and perhaps just technophobes) navigate the tablet screen with voice commands and a simplified display. The app, called Clevermind, from a Hillside, Ill.-based company of the same name, also will help caregivers manage treatment for their loved ones.

“My target market really is caregivers,” Clevermind founder and CEO Glenn Palumbo tells MobiHealthNews. Palumbo, a veteran IT professional and entrepreneur, is one himself, as his 82-year-old father has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for about five years.

“He’s extremely healthy from a vitals perspective, but his mind is deteriorating,” Palumbo says. “I wanted to create something to give him independence.”

The app essentially is a user interface in a controlled environment, according to Palumbo, with a limited number of large, color-coordinated buttons and voice control. It takes advantage of Apple’s Guided Access capability to lock a mentally impaired user into the Clevermind interface so the person does not get lost, inadvertently start deleting items or make unintended online purchases. “We want to avoid getting them confused and frustrated,” says Palumbo.

The initial release, set for June will have limited functionality, serving as the front end for communication and social hubs like Skype, Facebook and Twitter, with a simplified display including a basic Web browser. For example, the Facebook interface will show just key items such as friends, posts and pictures, not on-screen advertising or advanced options, Palumbo says.

The system will incorporate cognitive assessment training, tracking and reporting. “We’re going to track everything that [patients] do for research purposes,” Palumbo says.

It also will be integrated with popular calendar programs so caregivers can schedule medical and social appointments. The iPad’s calendar will then deliver medication and appointment reminders through Clevermind.

A voice interface, built from an existing open-source engine, “is as accurate as Siri,” the iPhone virtual assistant, Palumbo said, though he admits Siri still makes quite a few mistakes. He says the system works fairly well even with elderly people suffering from dementia because they tend to live in quiet environments and speak slowly. Palumbo says he is working with another developer to help improve the accuracy of the voice-activated system, though that will not show up until a later release.

To launch Clevermind, the company has teamed up with BridgePoint Technologies, an IT consulting firm in Oak Brook, Ill., for marketing and programming assistance and is trying to raise money on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. (BridgePoint VP and CTO John Gavilan says this is his company’s first health app.)

Clevermind has set a goal of landing $10,000 by May 9, and a “stretch goal” of $50,000 in a second phase of fundraising. “I absolutely can’t do what I want to do with $10,000,” Palumbo admits, but he says he set the threshold low because Kickstarter requires companies to hit their targets within 30 days or potential investors get their money back. “I chose Kickstarter to help build awareness,” he says.

What Palumbo eventually wants to do is turn Clevermind into the health hub for all kinds of people with limited cognitive capacity, including stroke patients and children with disabilities, as well as for those who simply struggle with technology.

Plans are to add a personal health record (PHR) that initially will require manual entry – and thus is not likely to get wide adoption – but Palumbo says he is in talks with at least two major electronic health records (EHR) vendors to build interfaces so data flows to the app just like it would to a patient portal. Expect to see the basic PHR by the third quarter, around the same time Palumbo expects to introduce a gamification feature with a rewards program.

Should Clevermind raise enough cash, versions for Android – including the Amazon Kindle – and Windows are in the works. Palumbo also wants to test the app in nursing homes, beyond the dozen or so patients he says have tried the current prototype.

  • http://www.waynecaswell.com Wayne Caswell

    The UI needs work but has promise. Feature larger images, for example, and allow easy customization. That way caregivers can choose images that are more recognizable and designed as constant reminders, such as showing photos of family members on the Social Connections button.

  • deetelecare

    I would be very interested to see where the testing with dementia patients will lead. At first blush, something new and even a little complex like this tablet could lead to a negative response, even (and perhaps especially in) early stage. Stroke patients and children with disabilities might be a far more promising market–but Mr. Palumbo has that personal involvement with his father that while motivating, might lead him to be less than objective as to the best market and business plan for Clevermind.
    Donna Cusano
    Telehealth & Telecare Aware