Ok. No looking back now. Health care reform continues to establish its roots on the South Shore with provider consolidation and the establishment of the omnipresent Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) to manage a person’s journey through almost all healthcare services. One of the goals of this consolidation and ACO’s is to reduce health care cost, while maintaining, or improving, the care services a person receives
The acceleration of care automation through technology is poised to help providers reduce their cost. Healthcare technology integration will create an experience similar to that which took place in the manufacturing industry, with automated systems replacing the role of people to attain the Holy Grail of lower cost.
This special report looks at the changes our readers can expect when they go to the doctor’s office, find themselves in a hospital or remain in their homes. The 2016 Senior Services Directory, available to our readers on March 1st will expand this look at technology and its impact on each step along the continuum of care.
By Greg Porell
Some of the most significant technology advancements are the result of innovation developed by the military. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) developed the Global Position System (GPS) to improve its navigational capabilities. Now the technology can be used to keep track of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease and help prevent wandering.
The Internet began with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s and the initial concept of “packet networking” originating in several computer science laboratories in the United States, Great Britain and France. When the U.S. Department of Defense awarded contracts in the early 1960s for packet network systems, the Internet was born.
Today, start-ups and traditional consumer electronics companies are building on these military technology developments and introducing new products that are poised to change the way many South Shore residents receive their care services.
As these new technologies move forward, there will be a reduction in the number of human workers required. A Harvard Business Review study claims that as many as 40 million Americans may soon have job skills no longer required as the work is done by automated systems.
In the future, there’s a very good chance a mobile robot will deliver your bedside medications when you find yourself in the hospital, skilled nursing or assisted living setting. Imagine a “mini-drone” getting your medications and bringing them to you, on a regularly scheduled “in home” flight. Changes may be something as simple as a robotic cat to keep grandma company. Hasbro has them available today in Orange, Tabby or Silver and Creamy White for $99. And they won’t tear the sofa to pieces or use a litter box.
Today’s Healthcare Network
More than ever, people need to take charge of their healthcare planning and follow through. There are tools to help, including care navigation services, primary care doctors and insurance provider’s case management teams.
The “silo syndrome” where information is contained in one location can no longer ensure the best services. A patient’s information must be available across the continuum of care to check history, current condition and insurance coverages.
Electronic portable medical records are becoming the norm. These records are shared across secure networks within a hospital or care organization via a computer network.
And patients now have the ability to capture some of their medical records on personal smart phones or other devices and have them at the ready. The medical records will follow a person and be a part of their care plan and help determine the services delivered, now and in the future.
Interaction with Providers
The days of making a long trip into the doctor’s office on a snowy day in New England may become much less frequent. Telemedicine has been in place for more than a decade now and has allowed visiting nurses to monitor and care for their clients without visiting the home. This has allowed greater frequency of contact, though only in person when the situation requires, and reduced cost.
A nurse can check in with the patient via the telemedicine technology through voice, text and now video. The virtual visit can address monitoring simple daily vital signs to helping gauge the client’s well-being through observation during a video chat.
These communication platforms will also be used by doctors in the future, to visit people in their homes, or perhaps in a skilled nursing facility. This Internet communication will allow doctors and patients more flexibility and frequency in their interactions, which should result in better patient monitoring and care.
Technology will also allow family members to “keep an eye on” loved ones who remain in their homes as they age. While it is yet to be determined how open people are to having these 24/7 eyes on them in their home, the capability to do it is available now.
Sensors will be able to report on the elder’s movements in the home, and if there is a disruption in normal daily movements, an alert can be sent to the smart phone of a responsible party. If concern grows, resources can be sent to the home to determine the elder’s status.
And the opportunity has attracted the attention of major telecommunications and computer vendors like Comcast, Verizon and Apple. They are betting that technology can help delay the elder’s move to a residential setting that can run from $40,000 to $90,000 year.
HeyMomDad, a recently introduced home monitoring solution is based on a monthly fee ranging from $40 to $90 per month.
When not in the home, wearable technology can provide a solution for monitoring, as well as the ability to store electronic medical records. Tracking of a loved one’s location and movement, fall detection and reminders to take medications at set times are all features wearable technology currently offer. The ability to have electronic medical records available through this technology at all times can also help medical professionals understand a patient’s history and condition and act more quickly and well informed should an emergency arise.
It is now well known that socialization and continued challenging of the mind are important to a senior’s overall health. Isolation can have a detrimental impact on the home bound senior.
Technology is now allowing them to stay in touch with family members and friends, with video conferencing services such as Skype, or social networks, including Facebook. A recent Pew Research survey found that 31% of all seniors age 65 and above are on Facebook.
Online hubs like the “Virtual Senior Center” can help a person exercise their brain, while enjoying the ability to learn and connect with course leaders and other students. Virtual Senior Center offers 30 on line courses, music selections, and more through a touch screen computer. The learning center is a collaboration between Microsoft and the City of New York.
The “Brain Training Industry” is estimated as an over $1 billion dollar per year market but caution is urged. It has been shown that these “games” improve performance on simple tasks, but experts conclude there is no more compelling evidence that games reduce or reverse cognitive decline.
Elder Law and Planning
By now, most everyone realizes the importance of having the right legal documents in place in case of emergency or sudden death. A number of on line resources now offer easy to fill out forms for wills, health care proxies or powers of attorney, but beware, they may not address important State laws.
Like most things on the Internet, it is buyer beware. Poor planning can impact retirement, care when necessary, and what you are able to leave your loved ones if these documents are not done correctly.
These are but a few example of how technology is changing the healthcare landscape. The 2016 Senior Services Directory will review every aspect of the continuum of care, and how technology is reshaping the services client receive, and where they receive them.