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PageMinder helps ensure independence

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

The PageMinder concept grew out of a specific patient need, said Thomas A. Blansett, licensed psychologist and co-owner of Neuropsychological Associates of Southwest Missouri PC.

Blansett and his associate, Dale A. Halfaker, also a licensed psychologist, work with head trauma victims and memory-deficit patients. In working with people suffering from memory loss, the doctors found that reminders to take medication or keep an important medical appointment, or in some cases even to go to the bathroom, were burdensome for family members and health care providers.

At first Blansett and Halfaker relied on paging services to keep the patients on medication schedules, but they soon found the system lacking. It was too hard to monitor pages and make sure patients were getting the messages on schedule, and it was cumbersome to change texts and times.

They set out to develop their own software to efficiently program messages unique to each individual and that can be changed at a moment's notice. It took nine months to produce the software. From the idea grew the current business, PageMinder.

An alphanumeric pager can give both the time and type of medication that needs to be taken, relieving the pressure of keeping up with complicated regimens of multiple medications and allowing patients more independence.

"Our goal is for people to be as independent as possible and live in the least constrictive environment as possible," Blansett said.

Established in March of 1997, PageMinder is currently run by Dottie Halfaker, director of operations, and her assistant Angela Sylvester, marketing representative.

Dottie Halfaker brings 16 years of experience as an occupational therapist to the company. She considers the work an extension of her training and background.

"It's been helpful to know from experience the needs of the groups we contact," she said.

Though the system was initiated primarily to remind people to take medications on time, other uses have shown the far-reaching aspects of the program, Dottie Halfaker said.

Through equipment provided by any commercial paging company, the software program can be set to remind elderly people with mild memory loss to lock their doors or put down the garage door. It can remind people to go to the bathroom or keep a doctor's appointment.

Pages may be set to sound at certain times each day, or can be programmed to give a one-time message, such as for doctor appointments or lab visits. The paging units can be placed in a central location in the home or worn by the patient.

Several local organizations have found the system useful for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes or AIDS. The system can benefit people with developmental disabilities or patients overwhelmed by complicated medical schedules.

Through a government grant, 50 to 60 HIV patients are now signed up to use the system. The number varies because as some learn to handle the regimen required for their treatment without PageMinder, others begin the PageMinder service. This is true of some head-trauma patients too.

"In some cases, the service might be temporary; the patient may not need it after a while," Dottie Halfaker said.

The pager message is scripted to the specific patient, Halfaker said. Where one person may know the name of a medication and can be reminded to take it at a designated time, another person may need to be reminded to take the pink pill with food.

Until recently, PageMinder has concentrated on the local market, but the company is beginning to branch out. An office has been set up in Kansas City, and other sites may be chosen in the future as the business continues to become better known.

Plans are for these satellite offices to be sales offices, with the computer system that sets up patient routines to remain in the main office in Springfield. The program has the capacity to reach out to paging systems throughout the country, sending regular messages to thousands of people at once.

Blansett indicated that, somewhere down the road, there is a possibility of franchising the company, fostering independent offices nationwide. But for now, the founders want to concentrate on broadening the local and regional market. He and his associate are taking the business one step at a time.

Entities like the Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation Center, AIDS Project of the Ozarks and other local and regional services have seen the benefit and become regular users of PageMinder. Some insurance companies do not cover the system, which may reduce health care costs by keeping the patients on their medication regularly.

The mission of PageMinder is to help improve the quality of life for its customers.

"It's nice to know we're doing something that makes a difference," Dottie Halfaker said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Dale A. Halfaker, PhD, prepares to send a page to a patient while Thomas A. Blansett, PhD, looks on.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Dale A. Halfaker, PhD, holds a pager that reminds patients to take treatments and medications.[[In-content Ad]]

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