Serving the home health, home care and hospice industry since 1999.

Video cameras are everywhere today. For proof, just watch any of TV's twenty or more procedural cop shows and count how many nano-seconds it takes for some brilliant technician to find a traffic or ATM cam that caught that week's crime. In home care, video has had some success, both for performing virtual visits and as a component of a patient portal system. There have been obstacles, of course. Not the least of which is making the systems easy enough for frail seniors to use.

Introducing "HeartLegacy"

We found a company this week that has made major strides toward overcoming some of those obstacles. We spoke with Walt Armentrout, co-founder of "HeartLegacy." Using a video recording system and professional video editors, Armentrout and his team have created products that make it easy for seniors to preserve their memories, for families to communicate, and for home care organizations and senior living facilities to create video marketing materials.

Founded in 2014 when he was working with medical software company, Armentrout got the idea for HeartLegacy when a longtime family friend was diagnosed with cancer and given a 6-month prognosis. "Right around the same time, his daughter told him she had just found out she was carrying his first grandchild," he told us. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be terrific if this wonderful fellow could pass along his legacy to a grandchild he will never meet?'"

Today, the Daphne, Alabama-based company is helping assisted living residents and home care clients and patients preserve family traditions, record their own messages of faith, and other memories for future generations. HeartLegacy editors capture the raw video, edit it and wrap it in music and decorative title pages. "My favorite," Armentrout told us, "was the adult child who called us to express her gratitude for a video of Great-Grandpa reading bedtime stories."

Video messages just the start

"After we got started," Walt continued his story, "we learned there could be other uses for such a system. First we added a no-charge service that seniors use to send and receive unedited video messages to and from distant family members. Then we started creating profiles of home care and residential staff, sometimes recorded while they are caring for a patient, and sending those videos to family so they could get to know their loved one's caregivers virtually. When we saw that we were capturing testimonials from clients or residents and their adult children, we started editing those testimonial clips into professional marketing materials and giving them to the agency.

Facility residents and home care patients love creating these "videograms," according to Armentrout. "They are usually just quick messages to say, 'I’m OK today, see you soon.' But we also get WWII stories, histories of family heirlooms, even readings of bedtime stories. Families have told us these recordings are priceless."

Accessible video technology

One of the first obstacles HeartLegacy had to overcome was making the technology easy to use. "If you ask an elderly person to log into a system with a password, you are asking for trouble," he said. "Even if all they have to do is pick their own name from a list of ALF or SNF residents, that can be too much to expect."

The answer? Facial recognition. "We put a kiosk in a common area and all the resident has to do is walk up to it and they are logged in to their personal, private account." Even when the system is installed in a private home, he explained, facial recognition still simplifies the process of recording and sending a message to distant family members. "We often find that isolation and boredom are major problems for home care clients and facility residents alike," he added. "We are finding that they are buoyed by the ability to create and send video message, especially without have to learn any video technology."

Mechanics and pricing

All captured content is automatically delivered to a private family network HeartLegacy built. Walt explained that it is almost like Facebook but private, secure, and exclusive to each client. Should the senior family member pass away, all recordings, both the free, unedited daily messages and the professionally edited pieces set to music, are preserved. There is no cost to the family. 

In addition, the company will create a "Heart Drive" for the family if they opt to purchase it. It is a gold-plated USB drive that contains all of the deceased person's video messages. "Lots of our institutions or home care agencies will buy these drives to give to a family instead of flowers," he said. "In fact, I have had adult children call me to order 10 drives at a time, saying they were going to give them to other family members for Christmas gifts."

HeartLegacy charges the residential facility or home care agency a one-time startup fee, then a monthly charge based on the number of videos recorded, but only the ones edited by his team. Unedited video messages between family members are free. Facilities get a kiosk, which becomes a self-service tool for residents whenever they want to use it. Most home care agencies wind up paying anywhere from $250 to $700 per month, depending on the number of messages edited.

"It is a way to differentiate your agency," Armentrout concluded. "As word spreads, far-away adult children gravitate toward the home care provider that offers a service like this.

©2017 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only.