How Connected Care in the Home is Enabling Seniors to Safely and Gracefully Age in Place
By Rosemary Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN
The Covid-19 pandemic helped demonstrate what medically advanced healthcare delivery looks like, specifically for aging adults and those with chronic conditions. For this segment of the population, health can take an unexpected downturn with little or no warning. This scenario becomes even more challenging for patients with two or more chronic diseases that require frequent access to health care providers.
So, where does a downturn happen? Often at home. This is where changes in health most commonly occur. The home is considered the “black box” of healthcare because it offers limited visibility for providers and caregivers into a person’s health status. From falls and injuries to declines in chronic conditions and cognitive state, these changes typically happen inside the four walls of the home, making them more difficult to detect in their earliest stages.
With connected care technology, clinicians can meet patients where they are and keep an eye on their health in-between office visits. Changes in a condition can be identified earlier, and treatment can be facilitated faster to prevent a costly downturn. The following are some of the connected care technologies that are enabling seniors to age on their terms while redefining care delivery in the home:
Medication Monitoring: Medication nonadherence is a common and costly problem that leads to billions in preventable care costs. Roughly 50% of seniors don’t take their medication as prescribed. Whatever the reasons behind medication nonadherence, there are strategies and tools that can help patients take their medications as directed. Tech-enabled dispensers combined with visual, audio, and phone alerts lead to improved medication compliance. Successfully implemented, these tools can increase medication adherence and lower overall healthcare costs by reducing unnecessary doctor appointments, visits to the ER, and hospital admissions.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS): A PERS, also known as a medical alert device, helps seniors by ensuring they get the help they need, when they need it, simply by pushing a button. This support was critical during COVID when seniors were isolated in their homes. PERS provides peace of mind to the most vulnerable and their family members by enabling them to remain safely at home.
Not only is PERS designed to accommodate the varying needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations, but technologically, PERS sidesteps the barriers to use that the internet can pose to some. From before, during and beyond the pandemic, PERS continues to be a lifesaving connected care technology that is reliable and dependable.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM): RPM is critical for managing the care of individuals with chronic and acute conditions. Providers utilize RPM to remotely monitor and analyze patients’ vitals and other health data outside of the office setting — meeting patients where they are —in their homes. These devices securely and non-intrusively capture blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and glucose and transmit the information between patients and providers. This physiological data enables earlier identification of problems, which results in quicker interventions. RPM mitigates concerns about the “black box” situation of the home and helps providers deliver more comprehensive and preventative care.
A robust RPM platform that is enabled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) can go a step further by supporting practices with patient outreach, enrollment and education to help ensure patients perform regular readings and stay adherent. Results have shown a 36% increase in patient adherence, lower patient attrition, and a significant time savings for practices.
Activity and Mobility Monitoring: With activity and mobility monitoring, dashboards display individual health, activity, and mobility levels—including wandering—that can enable better clinical decision-making, earlier interventions, and fewer adverse events. This allows healthcare organizations to deliver more timely, efficient, and effective care during care transitions and reduce unnecessary ED visits and readmissions.
Data and Analytics: By utilizing data and analytics, health providers can stratify patients based on a combination of evidence-based risk factors such as medical history, physiologic data, and healthcare utilization. Population health management alerts can enable practices to set thresholds based on clinical guidelines or their patient populations. This type of actionable data enhances health insights and results in better care.
Connected health technologies empower healthcare organizations and clinicians with more accurate, up-to-date health data that allows them to see trends over time for more informed clinical decision-making. These technologies help providers go beyond delivering traditional episodic care to providing truly preventative care that leads to earlier interventions, better patient outcomes and lower costs.
About the Author
Rosemary Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, is the chief health informatics officer for Connect America, with expertise in delivering innovative, value-based healthcare by utilizing health information technology and process redesign to improve quality, safety, costs and performance.