ATU412 – Goodlife Innovations with Dr. Michael Strouse

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show Notes: Dr. Michael Strouse, Ph.D. – President/CEO of Goodlife Innovations www.mygoodlife.org


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DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: Hi, this is Mike Strouse, and I’m the CEO and president of Goodlife Innovations, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.  I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.  Welcome to episode 412 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on April 19, 2019.

On today’s show, we are very excited to have Dr. Michael Strouse on.  He is the president and CEO for Goodlife Innovations.  That’s get into the interview and hear more about it.

Folks, our guest today is Dr. Michael Strouse.  He’s here to talk about Goodlife innovations and how this technology and system can only assist those with disabilities but can also assist those who assist individuals with disabilities.  Mike, welcome to the show.  What you think you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Before we get into talking about Goodlife innovations, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: I won’t go back too far.  If I started at the beginning, I grew up in the Ozarks in southern Missouri and went to a one-room schoolhouse.  From there, I ended up working in technology, which seemed like a thousand years from each other.  I began at the University of Kansas and a doctoral program in applied behavioral analysis.  From there, I got into a field working with programs like boys town, really in the service industry.  Our focus at the University was the creation of service models.  That was really our focus completely.  We developed service models they were as effective as we could make them, cost-effective, high quality, and things that could be replicated and disseminated.  That work from the University led me to Goodlife innovations, that is now doing all kinds of work.  I can get into the mission in a minute.  Basically after I got my doctorate at UK, I’ve been working the last 32 years doing the same thing at the same place.  I’ve been pretty much blessed.  I’m still with the University of Kansas, but I’m the CEO of Goodlife, and I don’t think I would do anything different.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Isn’t that nice?  I know you said, “I’ve been here for a long time and been blessed.” But it’s either really good or really terrible that they won’t let you leave.  I’m not sure which one, but it sounds like it’s on the good side.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: When we started, we had about a $100,000 budget.  Now it has grown quite a bit.  I think our services budget is $28 million.  We’ve actually developed probably about a hundred million dollars of annual budgeted services across the country.  Our focus has always been helping other people use service models that we think are kind of the next generation of care and starting fires across the country that grow and hopefully help people.

JOSH ANDERSON: Nice.  You started talking about it right there, but what is Goodlife innovations?

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: The mission of Goodlife in a nutshell is to redefine what’s possible for helping people who need help to live independently in their home.  Over time, our mission has changed.  This is a new company that kind of assumes the old company.  The old company was very clearly focused on intellectual disabilities, and we absolutely continue to do that.  But in reality, as you hear more of what we do, all of the approaches we’ve developed are about empowering people to live more independently who need help to live independently.  That’s more populations than people with intellectual disabilities, and primarily now is with seniors and people with intellectual disabilities.  

As we moved into the atmosphere, we recognized very quickly a couple of things.  One is those two populations can help each other.  There is energy and synergy that happens when you focus on that.  Really, our focus, as you will hear, is more into neighborhood support systems. Basically if you’re going to help people live independently, our belief is that we want to develop support structures that fundamentally become an amenity of the neighborhood.  Whoever in that neighborhood, any neighbor in need who needs help to live independently, whether it’s support, virtual support, or professional support, we can deliver that within the context of their neighborhood. Why do you want to do that for only one population when you already have the infrastructure to support multiple needs?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Tell me more about these neighborhoods.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: Right now, at least, it starts with a well picked neighborhood.  Where we put a neighborhood network – and I’ll explain why it has in it.  When we start and try to embed amenities in the neighborhood, it starts with picking the right neighborhood.  That would include good houses that are safe, that are large enough so that – when I say large enough, we are looking at probably 200 units plus.  Maybe they have club houses and they are close to shopping and public transportation. We actually have an assessment that we developed with the University of Kansas called the neighborhood assessment. That neighborhood assessment looks at all of the characteristics we think are important for people to have if they need support.  It could be accessible housing – that’s harder to come by, but at least open floor plans and barrier free or fewer barrier issues, good streets, not thru streets, transportation access, close to churches and shopping in medical facilities, may be close to where people can work, those sorts of things.  

Once we select that neighborhood, then what we do is we start developing and putting in a neighborhood support system that we call the neighborhood network.  The neighborhood network basically begins with professional neighbors.  We actually higher and infused the neighborhood with professional neighbors whose job it is to provide support 24/7.  We pay them well, and they work in a scheduled fashion, but they are also on call in a rotation.  The job is to be there to help support people who have needs.  We bolt on top of that some shift staffing.  Of course, the professional neighbors live there.  This is their home.  We have shift staffing that goes on top of that depending on the number of people that we are supporting.  And then we infuse each home with iLink technology which is owned by Goodlife.  In iLink, the “I” stands for “independence,” and the link part is basically it links the home to our ability to remotely monitor the home.

Here’s the thing. What we recognize and what is the case is that when people are living independently, or they are living semi-independently, most of the people that we work with, seniors or people with intellectual disabilities, they have a lot of skills, but the problem is when they need help, they need help.  Unfortunately, many of the things they need help with our intermittent and unpredictable. Traditional systems like assisted-living or group homes, what they do is they provide help to wait until a need exists. That’s the only way they have been able to address intermittent needs.  But what we do is we basically put that help in the neighborhood, and it supports a number of home and a number of people.  Than the challenge becomes how do we know when there is a need we of course, that’s where iLink comes in.

With iLink, each home is embedded with tailored smart technology that is designed for independent living.  That includes sensors.  It can include cameras that are self-directed, meaning that they can initiate them.  It’s intercoms, all kinds of support technologies.  So basically we can have people remotely in that neighborhood, people they actually know, the professional neighbor, our monitoring and helping the homes in a virtual way, checking in on them, answering requests, remotely coaching people, and assisting them.  It’s people they know very well and trust, and then when they need help, they deploy that help.  At night, while the professional neighbors aren’t monitoring, we have a remote center that’s connected to it that monitors multiple neighborhoods.  The remote coaches at the center will be there at night, and if there is a need at night, they will deploy a professional neighbor or the support to the home.

The neighborhood network has iLink technology for the homes.  It’s got a local support center that’s embedded in the neighborhood. It’s got professional neighbors. And it’s got a deployment strategy so that we can provide support remotely or on demand or in the home 24/7. The issue there is that that allows people to be independent.  It allows you to support people that have needs that ebb and flow at unpredictable times. So people who are fairly independent, they have an incredible trust and safety net of knowing that whenever they do have an issue or problem or they need help, help can be 60 seconds to two minutes out, anytime.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I can see how that can help in so many ways.  I know we talked about how the direct service professionals, how that market is hard to keep up with, but also the individual having the independence.  I know some folks have worked with, they end up – not resenting the people that are there to help them but just one them out of the way.  Like you said, they are not needed all the time.  But it’s important they are there when they are needed. That’s a great way to make sure that those individuals still get the services they need but without having to have somebody in the home of time.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: I want to add to that, I think we have to own the recent technology hasn’t been as useful as it could be. First of all, technology is complicated, and people who need help often don’t know how to handle those complications. They are not able to work through home automations and they’re not able to work through apps and other things as easily as other people.  

The way iLink works, and the way our neighborhood network works, is all the heavy lifting, although things are done by remote people.  The other thing that’s really important as we found, for people to feel comfortable in these kinds of supports, they have to be provided by people that really know them well.  I think that’s the other thing we’ve been able to break through.  In a neighborhood network, you may be supporting 10, 15, 20, 30 different people across two, three, four hundred homes that are in the community.  So they are very inclusive in that program.  The professional neighbors live there, and the monitoring center is there, professional neighbors take turns monitoring the people that they know. It’s really important that the people who are virtually supported are supported by their good friend Fred or the neighbor that they have developed a relationship with.  Where it gets hard as when you were being supported by somebody that you don’t know.  I think that’s where the pushback has always been.  My definition, I think the definition of privacy intrusion is an unwelcome intrusion.  We are not in the business of intruding.  We are in the business of trying to be in the background and supporting when you need it, and we want to be welcomed.  We feel it’s been our experience that if you do this right, people will prefer the independence, and they like the safety net of you being there, and they are happy with you being there because the alternative is that they would be in a group home or an assisted living, and then they would lose all of their privacy. This is an important program, but it’s important to know how to support people in a way that makes them comfortable with technology.

JOSH ANDERSON:  When I saw you present on this, you talk about that little key cards.  I cannot remember the name of that at all, but can you tell our listeners about those?

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: Thank you for reminding me of that. It’s my passion right now actually. We developed lots of help for people to make complicated things simple.  We’ve created a card that’s an NFC card, which is near field communication. The program is called FYI.  Here’s the thing.  Our vision of the neighbor network is we want to be there to provide support at the moment in place of need.  That’s our vision.  With FYI, our new technology, the goal is to provide information in text or video support at the moment of need.  

Think about this, and I know providers go through this all the time.  You hire staff, and you provide two weeks of training, and you just hope they can remember it when they need to remember.  But we all know that they don’t.  The same goes with clients that we serve or seniors we serve.  They can’t keep all the information in their head for every possibility that they need.  What they need is exactly the information they need at the moment and time that they need it.  

So the FYI card basically works like Google pay or Apple pay.  We designed this system we can take a phone or a tablet that uses NFC, and all you do is you put the tablet or the phone over the NFC card.  Think of it like a business card.  It does whatever the card says it’s supposed to do.  So you don’t have to know how to do an app, you don’t have to know how to navigate to some client information management. Here’s how it would work.  Let’s say you had an FYI card that said Fred’s parents’ emergency number.  You put that by the house phone.  If the staff needed to call Fred’s home number, or if the client needed to call his home number, you put the phone over it, and the number pops right up.  You don’t have to go to an app.  You don’t have to push a button.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just like Apple pay, you hover the phone over it and it does whatever. 

Think for example, let’s say someone had a peanut allergy or they had some dietary restrictions.  We would make an FYI card that looks like a business card that would say Fred’s dietary restrictions.  We put it up on the refrigerator.  Several staff go to that person’s life, so it’s important that they know that he has a peanut allergy.  They would go up to the thing, and when they are cooking dinner, they put the phone over it and it would say here are the following dietary restrictions for Fred.  It gave them the information exactly when it was needed and where it was needed, so they didn’t have to navigate.  It was like a Harry Potter watch to put over it and they got information.  It almost look like a magnifying glass.  You put it over and it tells you what you want to see. You don’t have navigate, you don’t have to do anything.  It just comes up.

It will also bring a video. Let’s say a client wanted to have a cookbook, and it would have a picture of oatmeal on its.  You put phone over it, and it would take you to a video on how to cook oatmeal.  Or if you are in a job, a supported employment job, and you need to know how to clean a room.  You put it over there and it would give you the instructions on how to clean that room. It’s all designed to either give you text, a video, or do a home automation with just one movement, and that is putting the phone over it.  It requires no other thing.  I think the transformational thing about this technology is that it makes things that otherwise would be too complicated for somebody to do, just simpler.  It allows them to sell direct their life or allows an employee to get the information on what they need to do.

One last example.  We use these cards, for example, all of our vehicles have lifts, but most people don’t always remember how to use them. All of the lifts are different. There’s lots of liability around people not correctly putting people in lifts correctly and using the lifts correctly. These cards would immediately go to a video showing somebody how to use the let’s.

It’s called FYI.  I think it’s a Twitter like approach to information, to make things simple, and hopefully it’s going to allow people to have more self-direction.  One of these cards, we started our developer on, it is tied to iLink — not all of them are. This was a home automation that the card would simply be called good night.  What would happen is it would be on your side table, dresser, and when you go to bed, you would put your phone over it, and basically it makes sure that your door was locked, you’re still was off, and it would notify iLink that you’re going to bed so that we could to start our monitoring program.  That would be a lot of steps to do, but you can do it in just one step.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Not just a lot of steps to do, but a lot of things to remember.  Do I say good night, have a great night?  And if I get it wrong, I get flustered and I’m getting behind.  The next thing I know, I leave one of those things and done. That’s awesome, the way it’s integrated with it.  I’ve always been a huge fan of video modeling and using the videos to help folks be more independent, especially for the big things.  I love the way you are using the one piece, to just hover over to do these complex things and help folks gain independence and do some stuff for themselves as well.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: So whether it’s staff or the support people, and they can keep everything in their head, or whether it’s clients, we can do a better job of technology with making it simple.  I think we are always in this consumer world where everything is it really neat, but can you really use it and do you remember how to use it?  Every app is the same way.  We want something that makes everything that’s complicated, simple.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think that’s great.  There’s a big thing in assistive technology called abandonment. If folks don’t like, can’t use technology, can’t figure it out, they are just going to let it sit there and become a very expensive paperweight.  That’s great that you guys thought about that.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: Just to let you know how this fits in, we believe – and that’s why we are talking about the neighborhood network and iLink.  We believe that technology is best delivered – as I told you, my background is in the development of service models.  What we’ve tried to do is develop a service model that leverages technology as much as we possibly can.  I think the mistake we’ve often done in technology is we basically give technology for people who give services, but their service model isn’t designed to use it. If we are really going to get as much as we can around technology, we are going to have to have some program design redesigns for people services.  

I didn’t mention this before, but one part of the neighborhood network is our applied technology. I think I mentioned that in the presentation that I did.  That technology center is remote nursing, remote behavioral analysis, remote case management, and a remote staff support.  That’s provided to all of the different neighborhoods that we might work with.  But I can tell you, when we brought nursing into that technology environment, we immediately realized that they needed a tremendous amount of retooling and help to be able to deliver care and supports remotely.  They were just entrenched in a traditional system.  It takes a lot of work to retool the service model.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Before we run out of time, and you talked about it with the FYI program, what else are you guys working on for the future?

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: The FYI is a big one.  The other thing that’s really big right now is maybe more important as low hanging fruit than anything else, is our workforce one-to-one program.  I will tell you this: all of the technology and all of the service model stuff is really about how do you squeeze more value out of labor and deliver support more economically to people in a way that they want it? It’s all about employment and all about leveraging labor costs.  That work got us into a lot of work on how you do schedules, how do you do staffing arrangements.  So right now, we’re doing a lot of work.  We call it workforce 101.  It’s workshops that we do that change how people staff and youth services.  We’ve developed three day work weeks.  We’ve developed all kinds of staffing strategies. We have a leasing program for staff for hourly labor.  We are really focusing all of our work on maximizing the amount of money that we have to pay people.  We just worked with a program in Missouri, a $100 million annual program.  We’ve only got through 45 of the homes which is about 25 percent of the homes.  At least on paper, we were able to increase their hourly pay from $12-$14 an hour without additional cost to them.  That’s transformational, if you can come up with ways to pay people more with what you have.  My feeling is that – we decided that’s how we are starting out, because that gives them a greater, more stable workforce.  On top of that, we are building a new technologies and stuff like that on how they can get even more value out of labor.  In many ways, it’s all about labor, all about how you deliver cost-effective people at the moment and time that their needs and at the same time, how do you really give those individuals that work so hard in our industry the amount of money and support and actually give them what they want from the available funds that you have.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Not just being able to make more money to provide for self, but a more flexible schedule to have more time.  As anyone in any industry knows, finding good people is hard.  Keeping them is even harder.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: But there are things you can do. When you look at it, you spend about 60 percent more of resources [while] unemployed than they take home. There’s a lot there that you can do differently.  We’ve figured out how we can do some of that, so we tried to share that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  If our listeners want to find out more about you or about Goodlife innovations, where could they look?

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: They can go to our website, which is mygoodlife.org.  From there, there are portals that will take them to find out more about us and also to contact us. It’s mygoodlife.org.

JOSH ANDERSON: Excellent.  We will put a link to that in our show notes. Dr. Mike Strouse, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

DR. MICHAEL STROUSE: Thank you so much.

BRIAN ANDERSON:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.EasterSealsTech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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