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Unique Flooring Solution for Reducing Fall-Related Injuries at Senior Living Communities

January 19, 2024
Amber Bardon, Joel Cormier

In this episode, Joel Cormier, Director of Product Development at Viconic Health, sits down with Parasol Alliance's Founder & CEO, Amber Bardon to talk about Viconic Health's revolutionary and unique flooring solution that can minimize fall-related injuries for Senior Living community residents. Viconic Fall Defense is designed to work as a layer of protection underneath the flooring, supporting fall protection strategies while providing comfort for staff.

Find out how Viconic Fall Defense can enhance mobility, while reducing fall-related injuries in all senior care settings, including Skilled Nursing,  Assisted Living, Memory Care and Independent Living by tuning in for the full episode! 

You can learn more about Viconic on their website and also on LinkedIn.

Discover more about how Viconic Health's unique solution can diminish fall-related injuries by reading their data-driven white paper here.

Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.

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Amber Bardon: Welcome to Raising Tech podcast. I'm your host, Amber Barden and today my guest is Joel Cormier, who is the Director of Product Development at Viconic Health.

Viconic health is the maker of Viconic Fall Defense technology. Welcome to the show, Joel. 

Joel Cormier: Thanks for having me, Amber. I appreciate being on and hello to your listeners. 

Amber Bardon: So Joel, this is my first time learning about Viconic Health. So why don't you give me a little bit of background and introduction about the company?

And then let's talk specifically about the fall defense program. 

Joel Cormier: Sure. Fall defense is a patented impact protection technology. It's a new intervention in senior living using proven technology that was originally developed in automotive and military and sports for passive impact protection systems.

And the simplest way to really describe it is it's fall protection under your feet. As we know in long term care, we're well aware that falls happen despite everyone's best efforts to prevent them and detect them fall defense is really a new intervention that we've developed for all senior living environments and specifically what it is it's the flooring underlay is the best way to describe it. So it lies between a flexible floor covering and a rigid sub floor. reduces the risk of injury when someone falls on it. So it's not like an airbag, which would be an active system. It's a passive system, like a pad that reduces the risk and severity of fall related injuries.

The other cool thing about it, it's a hundred percent made in the United States and engineered and produced right here in Metro Detroit.

Amber Bardon: So I know there's a lot of different types of fall technology out there. This is definitely a growing field. A lot of those technologies are categorized as preventative or monitoring or after the fact. So how would you categorize this type of technology? Does it help prevent falls in any way? Or is it really after the fall occurs that the benefit comes in? 

Joel Cormier: Actually, it's neither. It's really a system that is there because falls do happen, so it doesn't prevent the fall, it doesn't detect the fall, but what it does is reduces the risk of impact injury when you do fall.

Amber Bardon: Can you just explain that to me a little bit more.

Joel Cormier: Levels of impact protection are required in certain areas like automotive and military. They're actually mandated, for instance, by the Federal Highway Traffic Administration for reducing risk of critical injuries and crashes.

Any hard point in a vehicle , has some padding or protection in the event you impact it. It really is like a helmet pad or an absorber that's in between you and whatever the hard surfaces that presents that risk of injury.

Amber Bardon: What are the requirements? Does it raise the floor level? How does it work with a wheelchair or a walker or something like that? 

Joel Cormier: The interesting thing is that there are no requirements for floors in long term care or senior living environment. Whereas there are federal standards in automotive, sports and military that require that those surfaces be padded or compliant to reduce the risk of injury. 'Were developed technology that's on over 65 percent of cars and trucks and 75 percent of ground combat vehicles, along with sports helmet liner systems.

Really the way it works is that it lies in wait and is there 24/7 to reduce the risk of injury when you do fall. With our experience in automotive and military and sports impact protection, we were keenly aware that rigid surfaces represent a risk of impact related injuries wherever we live, wherever we play, wherever we age. In 2015 we became a finalist under the Head Health Challenges 2, which was actually sponsored by the NFL, GE, and Under Armour, was actually on the 2016 Super Bowl because we were working to build a lab and develop a superior turf underlayment system.

To reduce the risk of concussion and injuries in sports. So that's really how we started developing our underlay system. But we really identified an unmet need in senior living because the concrete and rigid sub floors are so rigid and long term care and even in aging in place and residential environments with just the floor covering that they pose a substantial injury risk.

And so during that development work. Carpet and synthetic turf manufacturers that we started interfacing with are the same ones that produce floor coverings. And I want to really be clear in this, that the floor coverings are not the problem relative to reducing the risk of fall related injuries.

They're actually an essential part of the solution because floor coverings. To get back to your original question they're just doing what they are engineered to do. They provide essential traction, cleanability among other, vital functions and the flooring manufacturers, they really do an incredible job of developing functional quality and aesthetically pleasing goods to cover these rigid sub floors.

Through our collaborations, I've developed many friends in the flooring industry and their support was really essential for us understanding how floors work. And, floors also need to support mobility. Some efforts in the past were made by others in an attempt to develop underlayment systems to reduce the risk of injury, but they were either so squishy that they actually created mobility issues.

Or they were so hard and inefficient that they really didn't substantially reduce the risk of injury, if that makes sense. Rigid rubber products they may have a little comfort, but they don't really substantially reduce the risk of injury. Whereas soft foams may be able to absorb injury reduce injury risk, but they create mobility issues and they're squishy.

So we really applied our expertise from our work in other industries, automotive, military, sports to develop a low profile system that supports the mobility and healthy aging. So you really don't know it's there it's firm and stable yet when you fall on it, it's capable of deforming and reducing the risk of injury.

And and we patented it and now we're bringing it to market. 

Amber Bardon: Is your ideal scenario to install this flooring in the entire community, or is it generally specific to just the resident room, or how does that work? 

Joel Cormier: Our initial installs have been initial individual resident rooms to date but we have had more and more interest moving into 2024 and entire communities or memory care wings or AL wings or skilled nursing facilities.

Those are the 3 levels of long term care that seem to have the most interest. Certainly there's a preventative benefit and independent living as well too. And those type of long term care settings, AL, memory care, skilled nursing so that's where we primarily have seen it in our initial installs have been an individual rooms, but falls can happen every anywhere.

And based on the research falls primarily occur in the bedroom or in the bathroom or somewhere in between. But, trip hazards and other things can create a fall just about anywhere within a facility, or building or home. So it just makes sense to be conscious of where your falls are occurring and, protect those areas specifically and other areas if you're able 

Amber Bardon: Are you focusing on senior living communities or are you also able to install this in someone's home if they live independently? And if you have installed in some senior living communities, how has it gone so far? Can you give us any case study results? 

Joel Cormier: Yeah, that's great.

Our first applications have all been long term care facilities, AL, memory care, skilled nursing, and really, since we've brought it and made it available to the market the warm welcome we've received from providers, caregivers, gerontologists, researchers, designers, architects, and installers has really been amazing.

We have a 26 page white paper available on our website with the details and the science between how Viconic works, how it supports mobility, ambulation, walking, wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, yet it's capable of deforming to reduce the risk of the fall related injury on our website.

So I encourage anyone if they want to geek out there's 26 pages of science there. And it also includes the data from our beta sites, and some of our pilot partners on the actual fall data from the rooms with and without the iconic system so iconic was installed and select rooms. They put their highest fall risk patients in those rooms and then we compare it to the rest of the facility that may or may not have, high risk patients and thus far the providers have been very pleased with the the outcome.

Amber Bardon: Joel, is there anything that you are working on that will be released in the future that you are able to share with our listeners? 

 Joel Cormier: falls happen at home as well. And so we've begun our effort to launch Viconic At Home.

The vast majority of seniors currently are aging in place and prefer to age in place as long as possible before making a decision or having to move into a long term care facility. For seniors aging in place, incorporating Viconic into a remodel or even a new build just may make more sense for them.

And 1 of the things that our product can do in addition to reducing the risk of injury is reduce things like trip hazards, that can cause a fall like rugs. Because our product does provide some comfort underfoot and it does have an R value, so it does provide, some thermal insulation.

And so some of those things that you might have, a sink side mat or a bedside rug that could promote a fall can be eliminated when you put the Viconic in there. So we've just really started to develop a network of preferred certified aging in place. Professionals that are focused on assessing homes and their conditions and ways that they can be modified and improve so people can age and live their best life at home.

And also along with that, working to develop a network of preferred remodelers and installers and, potentially new builds as well too. We also love the greenhouse model, the small home model. Where you have multiple residents [00:11:00] occupying a residential home and an assisted living or memory care type application. 

Amber Bardon: So I know you mentioned earlier that there are not any requirements to installing this, but I imagine there's some type of cost to bring up the floor and put this underneath. So what would a community need to know that they would need to change or do from an infrastructure or investment perspective for an install?

Joel Cormier: One of the things that we engineered the product for was ease of installation. So it is a floating system, so it can go over just about any rigid surface that needs to be protected with very little surface preparation. Basically, these panels are modular, they stick together you cut them with a box cutter or a zip tool to the periphery of the room, and then you conventionally install a flexible floor covering over the top of it.

 Because the product is a little bit under a half of an inch in height, we had to engineer a transition for it, which we also supply, so [00:12:00] it's a sloped surface that integrates with Viconic, so you can get up onto it from a surface that does not have Viconic. So that was one of the developments that we have.

With that increase in height, you have to consider door jams and other things within the space. But it's all things that are considered in, any remodel or new build. Most providers have been looking at it in the scope of when their current flooring needs to be replaced or they have a room turn.

That's when they're considering installing Viconic, and it can be installed very quickly and efficiently within that time period. Certainly we're looking at more new builds and more construction in long term care. But, that's going to be a little bit farther down the road for us, given the current environment, which has been a difficult environment to launch a new product and to say the least.

Amber Bardon: Yeah, that's what I was thinking as you were speaking that this would really be ideal in a renovation or new construction scenario. So you can get it. I imagine that the install is much easier to do and more cost [00:13:00] effective in that scenario. 

Joel Cormier: Yeah, it's actually the easiest in a new build when you don't have to tear up an existing floor covering you've got nice clean surfaces to work with, and you can finish it and you don't have the reinvestment of a new floor covering but thus far the feedback from the installations have been very positive, people really don't know it's there which is one of the great things about it is It's just invisibly supporting healthy aging and in person center care.

Amber Bardon: I know that your company has a grant program. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about that? 

Joel Cormier: Yeah, so our ownership is very passionate about what we're doing to benefit the lives of seniors, both in the United States and globally. We really expected to be farther along than we are, but we're in this for the long haul.

And this has been a challenging environment for us in the midst of a global pandemic and staffing shortages and cost increases and cost of goods and services. But we're prepared to, continue to invest and 1 of the ways that we're helping make this product available is through the grant program that we've developed. And after two years of positive feedback from our pilot sites, we rolled out this program so providers could experience Viconic within their walls, starting mid last year. And under the grant program, we provide Viconic Fall Defense at no charge for two to three rooms.

And we work with the facility to support the installation. We work with the provider's team, their preferred flexible floor coverings, and installers, and whoever their floor covering providers are. We train them up on the install and support the initial installation on site. And part of the collaboration with the providers is that following installation, we share

and compare the fall data from the Viconic and non Viconic rooms and evaluate outcomes. And by the end of this month, we'll have awarded at least seven providers a grant. And be sharing that information and data with them and working to improve outcomes. Going into 2024, we're likely to continue the grant program.

It is on a tab on our website. So if you're interested, you can apply at www.viconichealth.com. We ask for some information and it's easy to apply. 

Amber Bardon: So can you walk me through what does the product look like? Do you have different design colors, different choices, other different looks, patterns, things like that?

Joel Cormier: That's a good question. It's an underlay, so you never see it. But it's about 11 millimeters, which is 7/16ths of an inch in thickness. And it has an energy absorbing Cone layer and those cones buckle and collapse and are the energy absorbing layer that lies below a rigid load leveling layer, which is the layer that the floor covering the flexible floor covering attaches to that's the [00:16:00] surface that a pressure sensitive.

Flooring adhesive is applied to that is used to attach the floor covering the iconic and it's really that simple. The facilities can use the flexible floor coverings that they're currently comfortable with and simply put by Viconic, beneath those floor coverings. And it provides, a level of protection that the floor covering itself is just not capable of doing.

So those panels, it comes in individual panels. There's a overlap of one seam to another that attaches to one another with a pressure sensitive adhesive. There's a release liner you peel away, and the panels are about five feet by about two and a half feet, so it does go down very fast on the installation side.

Then once the Viconic is down it's very, it's a conventional floor covering install over the top of it. Your average flooring installer, if they can install the floor covering and have  installed an underlayment in the past, should be able to install Viconic. So it's fairly simple from an installation and execution standpoint.

But it's really one system. We can tune the stiffness of our energy absorber up and down. We feel we have it optimized right now for most senior applications to reduce the risk of injury, across the entire aging population. 

Amber Bardon: Is there any opportunity to put any additional technology into the flooring that could help detect a fall so that you would be able to have, both functions at once with this fall program.

Joel Cormier: We think so. We look forward to collaborating more with current suppliers of fall technology. Our product is a bit translucent. We do anticipate being able to maybe do some way finding from beneath the floor around the perimeter as well to help guide, people with cognitive impairments That might help them find the bathroom at night, or if they have vision impairments those are things that we've anticipated and we'll be working on and, we're here, we've collaborated thus far with, leading gerontologists, researchers, flooring manufacturers, and we want to work more with providers directly understand what their needs are and provide systems that that make the most sense for the residents and for their caregivers as well, too.

Amber Bardon: Joel, I've really learned a lot on this episode and speaking to you. Is there any words of advice or wisdom or anything that you haven't shared yet that you would like our listeners to know about? 

Joel Cormier: Yeah, I just want to say, that there's been so much great work that's been done on fall prevention and detection, but unfortunately, falls happen.

And we're really working to fill this unmet need in this space. And we really appreciate the support. We look forward to collaborating with providers and, from a personal standpoint, my mom fell and broke her pelvis and her inner humorous a couple of years ago. And fortunately she was able to come back, but a lot of people don't, if you're over 65 and you break a hip.

There's a 25 percent chance you're dead within a year of that from complications of that hip fracture and traumatic brain injury is almost as bad. Stay as healthy and as active as you can. Use your muscles. Your muscles are your best padding and protection against the fall. That's often times why we don't break when we're younger and we're frail and have more breaks when we're older, in addition to things like osteoporosis.

In your environment, remove trip hazards that could cause a fall. And lastly, we just ask people to look at the data that we've published and the science behind it. A lot of people in healthcare aren't really aware of what is being done in other industries and the standards that are out there that are protecting a lot of us in our day to day drives to and from picking up our kids or, just playing sports or

playing on a playground, for instance. Just look at the science and, if someone you care for is at risk of falling, we, we hope to have a Viconic available in markets and ask that people, consider it going forward. But stay healthy, be well. And try not to fall.

Amber Bardon: Yeah, this is definitely a huge area where we're seeing a lot of technology come to play. So I'm excited to see all these new vendors coming into the space. Old vendors getting into the space because this definitely is a prevalent issue and can cause a lot of major problems for people.

So thank you so much for joining me today, Joel, and I really enjoyed getting to learn more about your product. Where can our listeners find you if they'd like to learn more? 

Joel Cormier: To learn more, you can reach us at www. ViconicHealth. com at the link that'll be shared in this podcast. 

Amber Bardon: Thank you so much, Joel.

Joel Cormier: Thank you. Have a great day.

Amber Bardon: And listeners, if you'd like to find more episodes, or if you have feedback on this episode, or if you have an idea you'd like to hear about in a future episode, you can find us at RaisingTechPodcast.com and Raising Tech Podcasts on all social media platforms. As always, thank you for listening.