New technology advances are finding a place in the healthcare market. More and more different devices and systems are being put in place to help healthcare providers monitor and track the health of people who are at home and often far away from providers.
Maybe even your senior loved ones…if not now, likely at some point if they continue to live at home.
Many healthcare organizations, including the Veteran’s Administration, have been using medical devices to connect their patients to doctors and other healthcare providers, including nurses and diabetes educators, in order to improve health outcomes.
Self-monitoring of a variety of key vital signs has been on the rise across the nation. Your senior may be involved already with monitoring vital signs electronically and sending results directly to the healthcare provider. They may even have been provided with the device in order for the team to better track their progress. Some health care organizations are also setting up internet connections to make the data transfer possible in order to improve outcomes by increasing accessibility to the healthcare team.
E-Health: What is It?
The World Health Organization defines E-Health as “the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies in support of health and health-related fields”.
E-Health began around 1999 and is also known as m-health (mobile health) or tele-health. This technology utilizes the internet to transmit health data, such as vital sign readings and other types of medical data, from the patient to the healthcare provider.
It can make use of mobile apps on smartphones and tablets plus health links on computers or connected wireless devices. It can transfer medical assistance via social media. The information obtained is sent directly to the healthcare provider but can also be sent to the caregiver.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) eHealth initiative aligns health information technology (Health IT) and electronic standards programs. All aspects of government are putting programs into place to make new technology and E-Health a reality for our seniors.
Many E-Health Systems
Some systems that are considered E-Health include:
- Electronic Health Records – medical charts, lab reports, radiology reports and consultants reports
- Electronic Prescribing – when the doctor prescribes medications and sends it directly to the pharmacy to be filled or an x-ray or lab test order going directly to the provider in another facility
- eVisits – visit the doctor or healthcare provider remotely via secure messaging, photographs, emailing, reminders and personal data.
- Tele-monitoring – measurement of physical signs such as blood pressure, blood sugar, or weight that gets recorded and sent digitally to a healthcare provider
- mHealth – doing any of these e-health functions on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet
- Education – gathering health information via the internet
- Information Systems – computer software that can track appointments and personal health information
- ePatient – you or your senior loved one who are participating in health technology
- eMental Health – delivery of mental health support and treatment via the internet
The number of both systems and those who can benefit from their application continues to grow.
Benefits for Seniors from E-Health
E-Health has numerous advantages, including reduced cost of care, accessibility for seniors who are unable to travel or for those at great distances from their healthcare providers, and ability to inform family caregivers of health data to assist with adherence to the treatment plan.
Using E-Health, healthcare providers have real time information about your senior’s health history in the event of an emergency. Therefore, critical decisions can be made swiftly with up to date information for the benefit of our seniors.
Another advantage is to expand the ability of the reduced numbers of physicians to provide care to a wider group of patients while providing personalized care. This will lead to an increase in participation and improved outcomes.
As with most innovation that benefit us, there are also challenges associated with E-Health that continue to be addressed, including security, access to wireless internet connections, privacy, confidentiality of health data and storage of that data.
Connecting to E-Health
There are many different ways to connect to E-Health in order to gain the benefits, though this likely is just the beginning of what we will see in the future.
- Health information. Many websites are available to seniors and family caregivers that will provide information, support, links to resources and coping strategies. There are support groups online and via social media that can offer support and knowledge for caregivers. There are also new technology in the form of apps that will help you as a caregiver store this knowledge, medications, treatment plans, caregiving information and schedules.
- Blood pressure monitoring. Blood pressure cuffs that are linked to docking stations so that the vital sign reading can be electronically sent to healthcare providers and third parties including the family caregiver. It can link with smart phone apps and software that will track the readings in order to better manage treatment plans and trend readings for tighter control.
- Blood glucose monitoring. Blood glucose testing that will automatically upload data via cellular technology sending the data to designated healthcare providers or caregivers. Your senior can also connect via text based systems to tools that will improve care.
- Weight tracking. Using a connected scale to keep track of changes in body weight that may be the result of congestive heart failure which electronically reports trends to the doctor so treatment plans can be changed or medications managed. This can result in fewer hospital stays.
- Asthma trackers. Asthma triggers can be tracked and prevention strategies employed for better lung management. Management tools and alerts are available via smartphones.
- Thrombosis monitoring. Coming soon and already available in Europe, home blood testing equipment that sends results to the doctor so that anti-coagulation medication can be adjusted quickly. Results and changes are sent to the pharmacy as well. Digital reporting of the results directly to the healthcare provider in real time will impact outcomes without the need for travel for blood tests that often leads to noncompliance.
- Smoking cessation. Using online and smartphone apps that motivate, educate and send alerts to encourage successful cessation. There are also text based systems.
- Cancer health data tracking. An iPad app that helps people with cancer track their health history and treatment plans. It will store the data making it available to healthcare providers when needed. The ability to find clinical trials nearby can be done via apps as well.
- Mental health counseling. Counseling sessions that are conducted via the internet, smartphones, or social media. Allows access to those unable to travel or when no mental health professional is nearby. This can also be done if needed in anonymity which could mean more people will use these services.
This is just a short list of the ways technology can get your senior the care they need. It allows pertinent health information to be delivered directly to the doctor and other health care team members who can use it to create instant action plans that may avoid hospitalizations and improve management of chronic diseases.
For seniors who can’t access care or need help to manage their health, E-Health could be a lifesaver.
Does your senior use E-Health? We would love to hear how this has helped them and you improve their well-being.