Aging at home. It may sound like a new sitcom but it’s a concept that allows families and caregivers to keep a “virtual eye” on their elderly loved ones to help them remain at home in comfortable, familiar surroundings as long as possible.
To enable this, many companies today are developing wireless devices that connect a senior living at home with caregivers at another site, to make sure the elderly person remains safe at all times.
The growth in wireless monitoring devices – which include blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors for diabetics, and alerts that let caregivers know if a patient has fallen, not eaten, or has wandered off – has been driven equally by an aging population and technology breakthroughs.
Sprint (News - Alert) and TMC recently presented a Webinar on the Remote and Home and healthcare market
Companies now offer remote monitoring devices that can be integrated with electronic health records (EHRs) and disease management systems that can simply be plugged into an outlet in the patient’s home and send messages back to a caregiver, according to Steve Wheeler, director of business development and sales for Ideal Life.
Ideal Life has thousands of patients in hospitals, on health plans, senior community centers and many other healthcare facilities that are using the company's devices, said Wheeler at the webinar. Wheeler added that the use of his company's remote monitoring devices has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in congestive heart failure readmissions in the populations it serves.
These devices can also track through a GPS system whether a person has gotten out of bed, gone to an eating area or wandered out of the home, says David Kovach, a co-founder of Reflective Solutions, which makes monitors that can be worn on a wrist like a watch.
Some companies have created “healthcare hubs” in community centers, where people can go and attach their devices to self-service kiosks to communicate with caregivers and transmit their vital signs. This works well in communities where patients don’t have access to computers in their homes. A particularly interesting recent innovation was the installation of a kiosk at a taxi company, he recalls. "Out of 30 taxi drivers, 33 percent were hypertensive, and five had never been to a doctor. We were immediately able to enroll those drivers in a prevention program. That was exciting to us!"
Reasons these devices are becoming so popular? They’ve been shown to cut hospitalizations by 57 percent, according to Wheeler, shearing off healthcare costs significantly. They also cut down on “relapses,” or readmissions to hospitals after patients have been sent home, monitoring conditions that can be managed just as well at home as at the hospital, and help healthcare facilities prove they’ve met meaningful use requirements for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.
But there are barriers to the adoption of this technology, which include cost, concern that the devices can’t be integrated easily into a hospital’s data systems and doubt that solutions can be tailored specifically for each healthcare facility.
Find out more, check out the archived version of this Webinar HERE.
Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM (News - Alert) in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jamie Epstein