Healthsense acquires senior monitoring technology firm

  • Article by: CELIA AMPEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2013 - 10:28 AM

WellAware sensors help caregivers watch beds, breathing and more.

As the aging population outpaces the number of caregivers, a local technology company is making sure seniors are never really alone.

Healthsense, based in Mendota Heights, bolstered its monitoring capability Tuesday when it acquired a Richmond, Va., company that delivers caregivers more sophisticated data about residents in senior living facilities.

“Healthsense was formed around the aging demographic that society is facing right now,” co-founder Bryan Fuhr said in an interview Tuesday.

Noting that the 65-and-older set is projected to double in size in the next few decades, Fuhr said: “There’s no more money or caregivers to provide care for that aging cohort. Technology and innovative services are what’s needed to provide that group with care.”

Fuhr said the newly acquired company, WellAware, offers monitoring tools that go beyond what Healthsense could do before. For instance, WellAware technology can keep tabs on the regularity of a sleeping senior’s breathing.

“Our bed sensor [just] measures an individual getting in and out of bed,” Fuhr said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. But the merger will add 5,000 new customers to Healthsense’s base of 15,000 people in 24 states. The company works with about 70 senior housing providers in Minnesota.

Healthsense, founded in 2007, outfits senior housing providers with technology that collects data about the activities of its residents — door openings, trips to the bathroom and possible falls — and allows caregivers to review it online.

Last year, Healthsense raised $7 million in financing from new investors and, in January, named veteran health care executive A.R. Weiler as CEO. Weiler will lead the merged company.

There are no plans to cut jobs as a result of the acquisition, Fuhr said. Healthsense has about 45 employees, he said. WellAware is smaller.

Ecumen, a Shoreview-based senior housing organization, uses Healthsense technology to allow seniors to be as independent as possible. The monthly cost for the sensors can be from a few dollars to $100, which is relative low in full-time assisted living.

“Technology has allowed us to have quicker responses to customers and identify emerging health issues, which can help keep people out of the hospital,” Ecumen spokesman Eric Schubert said.

Schubert said as the population gets older, organizations such as Ecumen will seek out more and more sophisticated technology.

“Sensor technology has become quite a bit more prevalent in the last five years nationally, and I think you’re going to continue to see that technology changing and getting better,” Schubert said. “It’s going to play a significant role in building links between a person’s home and their health care provider.”

Fuhr said Healthsense will continue to chase new opportunities in the rapidly growing senior care market.

“If we do everything right, we should stay in the news,” he said.

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