Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How Technology Can Benefit Home Health Care

Have you heard? The silver tsunami isn’t coming, it’s here. The latest US Census projections estimate that by the year 2030 there will be more adults over 65 than children. This unprecedented demographic shift affects few industries as much as the home health industry.

Why is Home Health Care Demand Increasing?

How does an aging population influence the demand for home health care? In a variety of ways:

  • Older adults are more likely to have one or more chronic conditions than their younger counterparts, many of which require routine monitoring and management (like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease). Home health services offer an alternative to extended stay care and allow seniors to remain in their homes and still receive the medical attention they need. 
  • The majority of seniors wish to age in place according to AARP which means that more and more of them will be utilizing care services that extend from the doctor’s office into the home. Home health, telemedicine, and mobile health technologies are all industries on the rise and federal funding (like that which drives Medicare) is incorporating more home and community-based care into its coverage to cater to this patient preference.
  • Rapidly increasing rates of Alzheimer’s disease mean that more and more older adults are going to need home health services specifically for this type of cognitive decline. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that one senior is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 65 seconds in the U.S. As advancements in medicine and technology increase the average lifespan, those numbers will only continue to climb.

How Can Technology Help?

There are a variety of technologies that can be employed in the home health sector, both in a patient’s home as well as through providers like their doctor’s offices and even their health insurance. The term “technology” covers a broad range of products from hardware to software to mobile applications and wearable monitoring devices; it can support home health care in 5 major ways:

Monitoring for Health and Safety

When it comes to a patient’s health and safety, technology plays one of the most important roles in monitoring. Monitoring may come in the form of wearable security devices like medical alert pendants, motion-activated cameras in the home, fall monitoring devices, or even remote monitoring tools that track a patient’s vitals (like heart rate and pulse). Both medical offices, as well as family caregivers, can take advantage of health and safety monitoring systems.

Supporting Activities of Daily Living

One of the key measures of independent living is being able to tend to daily tasks like toileting, bathing, and getting dressed without assistance. Technology may be able to equip a senior with the tools they need to remain independent and live on their own. For example, virtual assistants like Google Home or Amazon Echo can help with placing calls, ordering food, and checking email while remote-operated lift chairs can support a senior with mobility issues when sitting and standing.


Coordinating Care Networks

Digital solutions to real-world caregiving challenges are most present in the forms of web and mobile applications. Tools like CaringBridge allow seniors and their care networks to coordinate care calendars to track appointments, organize transportation, keep updated contact lists, and share important health information. Other websites like Signup Genius and TakeThemaMeal also allow care networks to specifically coordinate help with meals and transportation.

Managing Medications and Telemedicine

With the click of your computer mouse or a tap on your smartphone, you can now connect with doctors, pharmacies, and medical information sites. The advent of electronic health record systems is also shifting more patient-doctor communication to the cloud; allowing patients access to not just their medical history and records, but post-surgical care calendars, SMS appointment reminders, online intake forms, and more. Medication management software is also helping older patients better adhere to complex medicine regimens and keep their caregivers in the loop too.

Promoting Social Engagement

Not only can social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and live video chat services help seniors connect with friends and family near and wide, sensor-based software programs are also being designed to help track how often a senior receives visitors, how much time they spend sitting, how often they get out of the house, and more.
Final Thoughts

The home health care and social assistance sectors are the fastest growing of any other economic employment sector in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are projected to grow by 4.4 percent annually over the next 8 years. If you are a senior, a caregiver, or an employee of the home health industry, be on the lookout for new technologies that are being engineered to meet this ever-increasing demand.

This is a guest blog entry.

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