As the demographic shifts head to the other extreme, it has significantly strained the healthcare sector. The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living report published in September 2021, highlighted 59% of the shortage of staff in nursing homes.
Do you know a major percentage of the United States population is getting older? As per a May 2021 report, the US population is estimated to house over 81 million adults aged 65 and above by 2040 compared to 54 million as of 2019. That reflects the need to increase healthcare services, making them available to meet the growing demand for elder and senior health care.
In the peak of a global pandemic, technologies including innovative home systems and smart wearables have posed an effective way of reducing the demand-supply gap of health care professionals.
1. Usage of Advanced Smart Home Technologies in Senior Care
Smart technologies such as virtual assistants come as a ray of hope for senior citizens. For instance, virtual home technologies like Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant facilitate the elderly population in staying independent.
Amazon introduced Virtual Home Assistant in December 2021 to provide facilities for detecting falls and instant response to the user. The innovative home technology comprises hands-free 24/7 access to professional emergency help and notifying caregivers.
How Does Smart Home Technology Aid Senior Care?
- The voice technology aids seniors in commanding the virtual assistant to play music and set a reminder
- It detects any customer falls and prompts the smart home system for instant care
- It has partnered with Vayyar offering camera-free wall-mounted sensors that help in detecting fall responses
Prioritizing Physical and Cyber Security
Cybersecurity becomes paramount for elder care to prevent misuse of stored data and information. It prevents unauthorized access to information and stealing data that may be used for malicious purposes.
Smart technologies like virtual assistants, wearable sensors, cameras, etc., collect user information such as their daily activities, capture their movements and much more. It is thus important to ensure accurate security of stored data and limit access.
As per sources, smartphones, video surveillance cameras, etc., are common targets of hackers. Strong cybersecurity to safeguard sensitive user data, especially surrounding elders, is integral for senior citizens.
Wearable Biosensors and Fitness Tracker Make Older Adults More Involved in Their Care
Wearable Biosensors and fitness trackers bring a supportive platform for older citizens to track their physical health and supervise their activities. The sensors encourage senior adults to monitor their physical activity, walking, heart rate and other vitals such as pulse and oxygen, thereby promising improved health benefits.
Devices like smartwatches, smartphone applications such as the Google Fit app, etc., track the overall activities like running, walking, biking, etc. Seniors can keep a check on how many steps they walked each day, their heart rates and their oxygen levels too. In hindsight, the biosensors and trackers also prove to be authentic proof for health care professionals to know about their health progress.
In addition, as senior citizens become more conversant with using smartwatches and biosensors, they can also keep a check on their vitals and instantly connect with healthcare professionals if they find any major change.
Enabling the use of wearable camera systems for Dementia Caregivers
Health care experts greatly rely on family caregivers of patients who have dementia to give input about the condition. For instance, a caregiver who spends much time with the patient will be able to describe the behavioral changes the individual goes through. The inputs thereby help professionals identify the underlying cause.
However, irrespective of what the health care professional is informed of, they may lack nuanced assessment to recall when exactly the triggers happened.
The objective of wearable camera systems aids in capturing the behavioral triggers serving authenticity for the information provided. Williams et al. highlight one such case where the caregiver was provided with a web-cam-equipped laptop that could record the challenges related to taking care of dementia patients.
The laptop and its inbuilt webcam operated for over 3 months. The drawback includes retaining videos from moments when the caregiver pressed a trigger to activate the camera. Besides, the video also captured the situation that happened 5 minutes prior to the activation. Furthermore, proper positioning of the camera is also an essential factor.
How are wearable camera systems useful?
- It provides a hands-free alternative instead of laptop webcams
- It can be worn at head or chest level, which can capture the situation appropriately
- It offers good positioning for caregivers to capture the incidents
Adopting Hospital-At-Home Care Delivery Model Will be the Future of Healthcare
Technologies have opened new avenues for the healthcare industry in delivering care for the elderly. While patients had to visit the doctors to receive care, the same is not made possible at home with the inclusion of the hospital-at-home care delivery model.
The biggest advantage posed by the strategy is employing care programs with connective devices to manage patients with chronic conditions.
The data acquired by surveying physicians of Medicare fee for service (FFS) and medicare advantage (MA) estimated that over $265 billion worth of services could shift from traditional to remote patient monitoring facilities by 2025. Equippo’s remote patient monitoring software features provisions to closely access the senior health remotely wherein they can get instant updates as soon as there is a change in the vitals.
These models include remote patient monitoring devices that allow remotely keeping a tab on patient progress with alert options in case of any issue. For instance, Mayo Clinic employs remote monitoring facilities for ambulatory management of COVID-19 patients. Its effectiveness highlighted 78.9% patient engagement, 11.4% and 9.4% visits to emergency departments and hospitalization and a 0.4% mortality rate in 30 days.
What does the hospital-at-home care model include:
- Self-administered dialysis
- Remote patient monitoring and alerts
- Daily telehealth visits
- Meals are delivered at home by various community-based organizations.
Tech Concierge Roles in Healthcare Facilitate Senior Care
The pandemic has pushed the world towards change. The pre-pandemic era witnessed reticence by senior residents in adapting to new technologies, thereby working with tech concierges. However, things have changed in the past two years with more elderly embracing technology.
Herein, a significant rise is seen in the tech concierge roles. The Tech concierge assists seniors with using digital devices, setting up new devices and resolving tech-related issues. As per business development strategies, Jessica Longly of CDW healthcare, as seniors choose to move to a certain community living option or stay in their residence, they will look for tech-centric facilities enquiring tech centric questions such as:
- Whether there is WiFi connectivity?
- How many devices can they access?
- Is there a provision for tech-based monitoring?
Considering the rising need for technology-centered provision for senior care and nursing shortage as of 2022, tech concierge poses the potential avenue for seniors to meet their technological needs.
Skilled Nursing Shortages Facilitate Tech Adoption
The United States has witnessed a significant nursing staff since the 1900s, covering various reasons such as economic recessions, world wars, etc. However, there has been a rise in the demand for skilled nursing since 2012. Reports suggest an increase of 1.2 million new registered nurses by 2030.
Herein, innovative technology poses an excellent alternative to nursing services. It is a trend that healthcare organizations drive to eliminate the barriers in senior health care. More elders are opting for smart technology and adopting digital health care technologies.
Caregivers Should Overcome the Tech Adoption Hurdles
As per AARP’s report on 2022 Tech Trends and the 50 Plus, over 84% of adults who were 50 and above-used smartphones as of 2021, and 50% knew to operate a smartphone. Furthermore, 67% are conversant with smart TVs, 35% used home assistants and 30% smart wearables as of 2021.
Herein, it becomes imperative for caregivers too to be well abreast with technology and its use. For instance, if you are nursing an Alzheimer’s patient, it is necessary to check their outbursts and behavior changes. Conversant with using smart devices and telehealth devices like movable cameras, etc., will help communicate the reason for triggers and their time accurately to the clinicians.
That calls for proper training for caregivers in making them well abreast with using telehealth devices to provide appropriate clinician feedback, thereby helping them come up with accurate solutions.
Care Delivery Solutions Designed for Older Patients to Better their Living Conditions
The pandemic played a catalyst in revolutionizing the health care sector with the adoption of digital health, such as senior care space. Hospitals at home are a growing trend in the healthcare sector where more and more senior citizens are opting for virtual care technology to stay connected with healthcare professionals.
As per an AARP survey of 2018, 76% of adults aged 50 and above preferred staying at home and in the community than moving to a separate living community. Furthermore, the American Hospital Association highlights that care at home solutions eliminate the need for elders to travel long distances, a health scare, reducing overall costs, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience.Thus,the adoption of technology in healthcare over the years has led to better diagnosis and treatment of patients; adopting interoperable, Equipo’s integrated care delivery solutions that help clinicians maintain patient visibility and data-driven decision-making enable remote patient care and monitoring in the home setting.