Healthcare needs of our aging population will continue to grow; fortunately, technology continues to advance and play an ever growing role in meeting those needs.
Senior Care Corner believes technology has the power to help our older adults and caregivers be healthier, safer and age in place independently for as long as possible.
More new and ever-better medical and home monitoring devices are coming to the market and being approved regularly, carrying with them the promise of connecting us and our seniors’ healthcare providers.
Managing seniors’ health will not only keep them healthier longer and independent in order to remain at home longer but also help to keep their healthcare costs in check and perhaps even prevent traumatic events.
Companies large and small are working to make home monitoring using medical devices more usable across different platforms and devices. We can use smartphones, tablets, and computers simultaneously and link these with the medical devices. These devices and advances will further link the information and data that is obtained with both family caregivers and the healthcare providers who can treat our seniors not only at home but swiftly as well to avoid further decline or hospitalization.
We hope to see more change coming soon that will allow us as caregivers and consumers to get more use out of telemedicine that can link us with our healthcare providers for improved healthcare. These are some of the latest uses of home monitoring medical devices that can benefit our senior loved ones.
TeleCare Using a Phone Call to Deliver Care
A group of participants suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain were randomly selected to receive a phone call or more traditional physician care.
After one year of monitoring, 30% of the telecare group reported improvement in pain using a pain score, compared to 25% in the doctor treated group. Only 19% of the telecare group reported worsening of pain compared to 36% of the physician treated group.
The telecare group also reported higher satisfaction, 77% compared to 52% of the physician treated group.
Researchers in this study feel that more research needs to be conducted regarding other ways to incorporate telecare into the treatment of pain in other ways that will be sustainable and cost effective.
Home Blood Pressure Monitoring Saving Money
The American Heart Association has recommended home testing of blood pressure for some time. Many seniors currently test their own blood pressure using pressure monitoring kits and record the results to show their doctors.
Researchers feel that self-monitoring not only helps the person manage their health and blood pressure, the readings help the doctor direct their care and also save healthcare cost for insurers, including Medicare.
The study found net savings with home blood pressure monitoring ranged from $33 to $166 per person in the first year, and $415 to $1,364 over 10 years. Home blood pressure monitoring is something that can be done regularly, whether daily, weekly or on another schedule.
With more than 76 million adults in the US diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure, the savings could be great.
Home Based Technology Options
Many home care companies have begun offering in-home medical and safety monitoring, connecting our senior loved ones to personnel who can keep them healthy and safe.
One company is providing personal emergency response monitors (PERS) that can call when needed. The device sends an alert to emergency personnel and first responders when an emergency occurs, such as a fall. This type of device allows many seniors to stay home alone longer with access to help when needed coming quickly.
Others medical devices provided by the in-home care company that are connected with nurses include vital sign monitoring – blood pressure, weight, blood oxygen saturation, pulse and blood sugar monitoring.
Companies are also providing sensor systems that will provide information about our senior loved ones and their well-being while aging in place. The sensors track not only in home movement but also sleep patterns. By trending these patterns, changes in health can be identified and treatment provided.
For instance, if the senior gets up many more times at night for bathroom trips, there may be a urinary tract infection that could become septic if untreated. This potential is sent to through the proper channels including healthcare providers and family members who are able to monitor the data electronically being alerted as needed.
These types of medical interventions would not be possible in such a prompt manner without the assistance of telehealth devices. They can can often help avoid emergency visits to the doctor or hospital.
One company teamed with the Kansas Department of Aging and the University of Kansas Medical Center for a three year pilot project. The results of using telehealth with these elders supports more use of technology. The pilot patients averaged 3.2 chronic disease states, “final data demonstrated reductions of 38 percent in hospitalizations, 67 percent in emergency room visits and 20 percent in nursing home admissions. Participants admitted to a nursing home had stays that were 58 percent shorter than the Medicaid average.”
Medical Knowledge From the Internet
Another fabulous way to use technology for the benefit of our seniors’ medical status is to gain knowledge by using the World Wide Web. Caregivers access innumerable websites to learn more about disease processes, treatment options, medications and their safe use, support from other caregivers and prevention strategies.
There is a great deal of information on the internet that can help us manage chronic disease, be a better patient, talk with the healthcare team, advocate for our health and wellness and perform day to day caregiving duties.
There are some warnings that we should all heed when considering changing our treatment plan based on the information we read. It is important to be able to judge which information is valuable and credible and which is potentially harmful to our seniors’ health. The information should be from a trusted source.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these guidelines:
- Medical information should be from a medical professional. Be sure the information includes the original source so that you can tell if is accurate and credible.
- If you are depending on data to decide on a course of action be sure that the statistics included on the website are from reliable sources.
- Make sure the information is factual, versus opinion-based. This can be difficult. One way to verify it is to validate it with other sites. If it is the only opinion on the topic it will be hard to depend on its veracity. If the research was validated by another source, it could be considered more trustworthy.
- The information should be recent, preferably from within the last year. Older data may be obsolete.
- Look for information that does not have a conflict of interest or ulterior motive such as selling you a book or other product. Sites run by government, university or nonprofit organizations tend to be reliable because they are not funded by companies.
As more technology emerges that is beneficial to our senior loved ones, it will help make life better for the senior receiving care and make family caregivers’ roles easier to manage — or least that is the hope!
We will continue to update you on new developments as we learn of them. Do you have any experience or questions about technology that you have used or wish to use in the home of your senior loved one? Please contact us so we can share and benefit all!