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Feature

Stuart  Speedie,  U of M laboratory medicine  and pathology professor.

Stuart Speedie, U of M laboratory medicine and pathology professor and co-principal investigator for the study

Assisted living, the virtual way

by the Academic Health Center

From eNews, January 22, 2004

Elderly people will have better access to health care services if a new University of Minnesota program, now being studied, works. Virtual Assisted Living Umbrella for the Elderly (VALUE) combines videoconferencing and Internet technology with home monitoring devices to connect elders living at home with health care providers. Although telemedicine--linking patients with doctors by video and telephone--has been around for a while, the concept is relatively new to the world of assisted living. Stuart Speedie, laboratory medicine and pathology professor and co-principal investigator for the study, says the U's VALUE program is a way for frail and elderly individuals to retain their independence and avoid a nursing home. They could continue to live in their homes and enjoy familiar surroundings with just a telephone, computer, and Internet access, he says. The U's Medical School is working with Volunteers of America of Minnesota and TriCounty Hospital in Wadena on this project. Both organizations serve areas with an increasing elderly population and limited affordable assisted-living facilities. University researchers will direct the study and, through a randomized trial, evaluate the impact of VALUE in supporting a participant's ability to remain in an independent living situation. If successful, this telemedicine program would serve as a model for implementing similar services nationwide. The study is funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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