Every day, tens of thousands of Americans are turning 65, and three factors—longer life spans, rising health care costs and aging baby boomers—are driving the growth of this demographic. An overwhelming percentage of these aging adults desires to stay at home, maintaining an active, independent lifestyle for as long (and as safely) as possible. This sentiment should guide HME providers, health care professionals and all caregivers as they make decisions that have the potential to impact how seniors age. As this segment of the population continues to grow in 2015 and beyond, there will be new demands on home monitoring and PERS providers on the patient side, and new opportunities for revenue from the HME provider’s perspective. Today’s seniors are becoming more comfortable with technology and now demand more sophisticated, increasingly connected solutions to accompany them on their aging journey.
Monitoring as Preventive Care
“The Affordable Care Act has changed how both consumers and companies view health care,” says Dan Maynard, president and CEO of grandCARE Systems. “The cost of health care continues to rise, especially for the aging populations that require more frequent and longer-term health care monitoring.” A large part of the new legislation focuses on hospital readmission reductions and consequences for reactive versus proactive care, he says, and there are significant financial incentives for hospitals to actively work with Patient Safety Organizations (PSOs) to reduce costs associated with patient readmissions. Products like grandCARE incorporate resident information and support, captured resident data and professional caregiving tools, encouraging everyone in the caregiving support network to work together to achieve true patient-centered care. “A path of a patient/provider partnership results in better outcomes for both the patients and the caregivers because it creates greater efficiency for the caregiver staff by allowing virtual care, which results in fewer at-home visits,” says Maynard.
Virtual monitoring technology can potentially head off any serious issues, reducing the likelihood for patient readmissions. As a caregiving tool, grandCARE Systems is designed to reduce health care costs and improve outcomes by enabling family members, caregivers and health care professionals to remotely care for an individual living at home, regardless of geographic location. The system uses a large touch screen in the residence, which provides the individual with social communications, health monitoring, visual daily reminders and medication prompts. The easy-to-use interface means that no computer skills are needed for the resident to engage in all of the touch screen features. The system also supports virtual video visits, telehealth device recording (which takes vitals such as wireless blood pressure readings, weight, pulse oximerty, glucose and thermometer readings) and remote in-home activity sensing.
Most recently, grandCARE Systems incorporated a new professional caregiver and user task management feature into their system, which allows the resident and caregiver to follow a daily schedule of tasks required to be checked off (such as medication administration, caregiver education, scheduled appointments, etc.). “This new feature enhances the resident engagement aspect by giving the resident a daily to-do list and establishes complete transparency for professional caregiving organizations by providing a task list that is required to be completed during home visits,” says Maynard.
Home monitoring and PERS technology now has the capability to better predict when a user may require a hospital transport or readmission. As the industry learns to better aggregate and analyze data from home monitoring and PERS solutions, HME providers, health care professionals and caregivers alike will be able to better understand exactly what a senior’s needs are and take preventive steps to keep them safe at home and out of the hospital.
Independence with Intuitive Technology
“As technology continues to change, it is important to provide products and services that are user friendly and don’t intimidate seniors so that they will actually use them,” says Mindy Harrington, marketing manager at LogicMark. “It’s a fine balance between technology and simplicity, especially with that demographic.” LogicMark, a leader in two-way medical alert systems, recently introduced the Caretaker Sentry, a unit that supports a fully supervised waterproof pendant with a five-year battery. “This system addresses the issue where individuals were looking for a longer battery life and a pendant that is waterproof, so the pendant easily can be taken in the shower or bath without compromising the pendant,” says Harrington. The two-way voice pendant allows the user to have a clear conversation with the central station if necessary. For further peace of mind, the pendants also communicate directly with the base stations every couple of hours to confirm the battery status and that the pendant is functioning properly. These factors, combined with the long battery life and go-anywhere waterproof convenience, means that the pendant never needs to be taken off.
For those looking for simplicity and intuitive design outside the wearable market, full-home monitoring may be the right solution. BeClose, a Virginia-based company, uses a system of discrete sensors placed throughout the home that tracks activities and learns everyday routines. BeClose’s sensors work on the cellular network and notice when something is amiss, such as a prolonged absence from bed or a missed meal. Family members and caregivers monitor daily activity and receive alerts about falls, missed medications and issues of concern.