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Meals on Wheels launches mobile app to track each client's well-being

Alyssa Clementi

Meals on Wheels, a service that regularly brings both meals and companionship to senior citizens, is launching a new app where drivers can log and track any changes within their client’s environment and send those updates directly to their supervisor. Once the supervisor is made aware of any issues going on in the client’s home, whether it is related to mental or physical health, the supervisor can check in with the client and monitor them more closely.

The program, which was created in collaboration with non-profit West Health and the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research, was successfully tested in two pilot sites that serve almost 900 clients. The app-based alert and response program will be spreading to 30 more Meals on Wheels sites, with plans to continue expansion through 2020.

"When Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers are equipped with simple, yet effective screening tools while on their deliveries, they're better able to react to changing conditions in seniors' physical and mental state or environment before a particularly harmful health event occurs," said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. "This ability to respond in close to real-time can ultimately contribute to more agile coordination across medical and community-based service providers, improving outcomes and reducing costs."

Meals on Wheels employees follow a “more than just a meal” service model, since volunteers and staff are very invested in the well-being on the senior citizens they deliver to. For some clients, their Meals on Wheels driver is the only person the client sees that day, so it’s imperative that the volunteer notices any changes in behavior, health, or surroundings.

"By collaborating with Meals on Wheels America, we've developed a safe, cost-effective and scalable program to preemptively identify and address concerns that too often result in deterioration of a senior's medical condition or pose a major safety risk," said Dr. Zia Agha, chief medical officer at West Health. "We're excited learnings from this research program are now being implemented across the country within Meals on Wheels America's expanded program that will positively impact as many seniors as possible."