Falls among older adults are common, costly, and, much too often, fatal. The CDC’s 2019 statistics on older adult falls include 3 million falls that required emergency department visits and $50 billion in annual medical costs, 75% paid by Medicare and Medicaid. Even more shocking, older adult falls resulted in 34,000 deaths in 2019, the most frequent cause of injury death. In 2021 Health Tech Insider wrote about OneStep, a digital physical therapy app. At the time the OneStep developers said the app’s gait analysis could help with fall risk assessment for seniors. OneStep recently announced expanded focus on the app’s fall risk analysis and detection, a development that headlines the program’s potential to reduce fall injuries, treatment costs, and deaths.

The OneStep app monitors four factors to determine a user’s risk of falling. The app measures the user’s gait speed and steps per minute. The smartphone’s motion detectors also analyze stance asymmetry and step length asymmetry. Stance asymmetry tracks the time spent on one or both legs and calculates the difference between the time on the left and right legs. Step length asymmetry calculates the difference between step length with each leg when a user is in full stride. The asymmetry measurements are expressed as percentage differences. The OneStep app has advantages over many fall analysis measures because the app doesn’t require special equipment or a special location. Users can run the app to assess their gait in natural settings. Each time a user runs the OneStep app, the new data gets added to the existing collection. These OneStep features help users, physical therapists, and other care personnel analyze the user’s gait over time to measure improvements or increased impairments. Collecting data from gait tests in different settings can also help the care team assess the user’s potential risk under varied conditions. Any time when the app detects gait patterns that indicate a higher risk of falling, the smartphone sends an alert to the user’s care team.

Independence without free mobility is a limited blessing. If OneStep can help senior adults maintain their independence longer and support the one’s preference to age at home, we’re already fans.