Connected Health Explained – What it Means to Seniors and Caregivers

Connected Health Explained – What it Means to Seniors and Caregivers

Senior Care Corner believes strongly that our senior loved ones can have improved quality of life using connected health devices.

The new innovations constantly coming to market are providing us with the opportunity we need to impact our own health outcomes. This is vitally important for our senior loved ones especially those who are aging in place and trying hard to stay independent.

What is connected health technology? Most describe it as a way to receive healthcare using technology to provide it remotely. It can give consumers the ability to engage with providers and better self-manage their care. It uses technology to deliver patient care outside of the hospital or doctor’s office.

We thought we’d drop back after our day 1 coverage of the inaugural Connected Health Summit to explain further what “connected health” entails and why it can be important to our senior loved ones.

How Is Connected Health Poised to Help Seniors?

Manufacturers are focusing their efforts to create technology that will help our seniors be healthier in a variety of arenas. These innovations will allow seniors and caregivers to manage their own health proactively.

  1. Chronic disease management using connected technology; there are devices and applications that can help our seniors manage chronic conditions
  2. Independent living to help seniors in their homes; technology includes emergency detection, sensors, and behavior trackers to establish patterns so straying from the usual can alert help
  3. Wellness and fitness applications can help keep seniors motivated on prevention and physical activities. Many of these applications are being encouraged by employers so caregivers may be able to connect with them to remain healthy caregivers!
  4. Virtual health care will provide those without access to doctor’s offices get evaluation and treatment from a healthcare provider virtually. There is a beneficial convenience factor, not only for long distance caregivers but also working caregivers who may not be able to get their seniors transportation to the doctor. It will also allow healthcare between standard doctor visits that could nip a problem in the bud and prevent emergent situations.

Benefits of Connected Health

There currently are devices and applications available that are yielding many benefits to seniors and their caregivers but many more are making their way onto the market. There are numerous reasons for the upswing in development of connected health devices, some about which you likely have some awareness and others you may have heard little or nothing.

Most realize that new tech devices are being driven by manufacturers’ and developers’ desire to make money. But that is not typically the only reason some of these products are getting traction in the market — nor is it necessarily a bad reason, since many of our technology options are providing real consumer benefits.

While there are many drivers, legislative and regulatory changes have created needs that technology is fortunately stepping up to fill. The Affordable Care Act and Accountable Care Organizations have made it necessary that healthcare providers connect with their consumers and show positive outcomes.

It isn’t enough to just treat the illnesses of our seniors anymore, as healthcare providers have to show they are acting to make seniors healthier and prevent chronic conditions. This has opened the market to innovations that help seniors and caregivers handle their own care, such as vital sign monitoring.

The HITECH Act mandated that healthcare provides step into the age of electronic medical records and make those records accessible to the consumers. Caregivers of seniors will be able to access test results, medication lists, xray reports and other health data through the patient portals.

The information will be available to all providers to smooth the transition between providers, reduce overlap of services and allow for more informed providers who can treat patients more quickly and effectively.

Mobile Technology a Key

The advent of smartphones and the adoption of those devices and tablets by a great number of caregivers and seniors has allowed new apps to help connect seniors and healthcare providers with caregivers. You can use connected health devices to communicate with the right person at the right time.

Caregivers can follow the well-being of their seniors remotely and monitor their safety and comfort with data through their smartphones twenty four hours a day. The apps are becoming even more user friendly, which helps with their engagement.

Research shows that more of us are engaging daily with our health apps, not just installing never to open them again. We are now seeing results and value from their use.

Whetting Appetites for More

Family caregivers are beginning to request new technology to help them manage the care of their senior loved ones. We are realizing that innovative technology won’t replace our need to be caregivers but can make our caregiving journey more productive and even easier.

We appreciate that the health data is getting more transparent and we have access to more health records than ever before. We can even store them in our smartphones or other devices such as through the Blue Button. We can also interact more freely with other caregivers who have support and information sharing that can benefit caregivers.

With improvements in technology, such as miniaturization of our devices, we are finding that wearable connected health devices are providing more data in real time and we don’t mind sporting a smaller device. Many of our seniors are not as apprehensive about wearing monitors or  sensors as they did when these items were first made available. We are all learning how valuable a tool we have in technology when it comes to keeping our seniors safe at home.

We are also starting to envision some of the benefits upcoming connected health technology may provide.

Improvement Opportunities for Current Connected Technology

We have been hearing for quite some time about a major gap in the devices and applications we have available for our health data. We seem to be tracking everything from hours of sleep, weight changes, blood pressure, amount of water we drink, how many calories we eat, how well we are breathing, and many more vital bits but we have yet to actually aggregate all these points of data into meaningful action steps.

  • All our devices and platforms are not yet communicating with each other.
  • Hospital electronic records are not all being shared with other organizations.
  • Patients have yet to get access to their patient portals.
  • Our vital signs may not be getting to the doctor or being read by our providers and then being translated to our seniors in a meaningful way, which would give us a basis us to change our behavior for healthy outcomes.

A key goal of connected health is to allow us to be in charge of our own health, but that requires that this mountain of data can be interpreted in a way caregivers can understand what needs to be done for our seniors’ health.

If we go to the emergency room in Arizona on a trip, will they be able to access our seniors’ health records from the doctor or hospital in Florida where they live? If not, valuable time may be lost that could have been better spent getting treatment initiated more quickly knowing they take specific blood pressure pills and have had a heart valve replacement.

Security issues seem to have become less of a concern with encryption and other innovations according to the IT experts. Still, there are enough data breaches impacting other aspects of our personal records that there is reasonable apprehension on the part of many consumers.

Story Just Beginning

Many times we hear that just the tip of the proverbial iceberg has been seen in the world of technology. That is most certainly true with connected health technology, especially as it will benefit our senior loved ones and help make us more effective family caregivers.

Join us as we follow the advances of not just connected health but other aspects of technology at CES, the Connected Health Summit and numerous other stops along the way.

2 thoughts on “Connected Health Explained – What it Means to Seniors and Caregivers”

  1. Kathy, this is a very thought provoking article. I really see the potential of connected health but fear it’s traveling a path similar to smart homes; i.e. over 20 years ago, everyone was going to have a smart home and today, it still hasn’t happened. I do think we are posed for success but I wonder if institutions will be able to pull it off or if they will give up due to the complexities?

    • Mike, I believe that some of the latest technologies will come to fruition and find a place in our homes for the safety of seniors and caregivers. It will likely take more time than anyone anticipates due to cost, adoption and regulation. I hope that we can figure out how to make future innovations work for everyone–admittedly a tall order! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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