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Q&A With Lindsey Harbison, Assistant Executive Director at 80th Street Residence, NYC


MDT spoke with Harbison about the technology used at the 80th Street Residence in NYC that helps monitor the symptoms of patients with cognitive issues.

Lindsey Harbison

Lindsey Harbison

The 80th Street Residence in New York City is an independently operated assisted living facility for patients suffering from dementia and cognitive decline. Often times, these patients may struggle to accurately report symptoms to their care workers, which is why the residence is using a new type of radar technology to measure health markers like heart rate and respiration.

(MDT:) How would you describe the 80th Street Residence?

Harbison: It’s the only assisted living facility in New York City that’s devoted entirely to assisting individuals who are living with cognitive impairment. We’ve been in operation since 1999, always doing this line of work and supporting people living with various forms of dementia. One of the very unique things about our community is that we are a small, stand alone community. We have two private owners, no board of directors or shareholders, which allows us to take advantage of different opportunities that have come our way. One of which was a recent partnership with Xandar Kardian and using their device for remote patient monitoring.

(MDT:) How is the 80th Street Residence using new technologies to help patients?

Harbison: Over the last 5-10 years, we’ve really seen technology and healthcare advance in really tremendous ways. We have our wearable devices, like Apple Watches. During the pandemic, we were able to use multiple devices to keep our residents connected with their loved ones through FaceTime calls or Zoom. Even things as simple as Amazon’s Alexa that has the ability to stream music on demand are helpful for residents that are having a difficult time and creating an environment that is calm and more conducive for relaxation.

One of the the really cool things that we’re doing here is looking for ways that technology can also improve the patient care situation that’s going on. In New York City, there are very big hospitals, and considering that all of our patients are suffering from cognitive impairment, sending them out to hospitals for medical intervention can obviously be really traumatic for them.

When Xandar Kardian approached us, with this device and explained what they were doing with it in a skilled nurse environment, our owners really thought it was a great opportunity for us to be more proactive in our resident’s care. If anything was going on with them, in terms of infections or other situations like that, these devices would allow us detect it a little sooner and hopefully prevent those hospitalizations for medical interventions.

(MDT:) What difficulties do patients with verbal issues have communicating, and how are new technologies helping with this?

Harbison: We have residents who have various degrees of cognitive impairment. Some are still verbal, but for residents who are non-verbal, they are obviously facing more difficulties when attempting to communicate their needs. For example, if they’re not feeling well, something is hurting them, having chest pains, or are feeling dizzy, they’re not going to be able to verbalize that to us. They might be able to communicate that through body language, but even that is hard for our nurses to figure out what exactly is going on. By using something like the Xandar Kardian device, we are given active data that is collected overnight and be used in a proactive way by using radar to pick-up micro-vibrations in resident’s overnight.

Basically, it is giving us data on their heart rate and respiration rate. Evidence shows that any fluctuations in either of these things can be warning signs of a potential medical event. By having this data collected, we’re able to have an accurate snapshot of what’s going on with our residents without having to rely on patient reporting.

(MDT:) How does the radar technology take measurements of heart and respiratory rates?

Harbison: It’s a non-wearable device that is mounted on the wall above the resident’s bed. Overnight, when they’re resting in bed, it will send out radar pulses that detect micro vibrations for the heart and respiration rate. It picks up these measurements, which are then analyzed by a nurse practitioner, who looks at what is a typical baseline for each resident and then compares it to this data and see if it indicates any changes.

(MDT:) Can these technologies be used to help a wider range of conditions?

Harbison: Their technology can be used to detect serious medical events. If you’re using it in a way where it’s providing live data, rather than retroactive data, it can provide signs for serious medical events, like potential heart attacks, stroke, or other serious medical issues that will allow health care providers to act quicker to provide medical care and options for the patient. There’s a lot of different ways it can be used.

At 80th Street, we’ve started looking at the data that’s collected overnight, with regards to sleep patterns and overall movements. This provides a very accurate picture of when the residents are sleeping versus when they’re up, and when they’re up, can we get them the appropriate support that they need in a timely manner. We know, overnight is when most things may happen in terms of falls or other incidents.

(MDT:) What are the struggles/benefits of operating an assisted living facility in New York City?

Harbison: Coming through a pandemic, there were plenty of struggles. We’re entering a post-pandemic world and the environment is very different. People are ready to go back into living in communities. People are missing socialization as well. We’ve all been isolated for several years now, and people are wanting those connections. That’s one of the benefits of operating in the city. We have millions of people and wonderful programs and support services to take advantage of. There’s lot of benefits including access to cultural, musical, and art programs for the residents.

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