Technology has rapidly adapted to fit our changing needs and expanded into every facet of our daily lives, especially in the way we now experience caring for our health. As mobile devices and apps, telehealth access and other related health IT become more popular, digital access to health data is not only preferred but expected. When we talk about this year’s NHIT Week theme of the value of health IT, it’s important that we also extend the conversation to include the transformative power of technology in the senior care space as well.

True care demands spanning the full continuum, and as technology continues to progress in the hospital and acute care space, it also must do so in senior living, long-term care and within the home. By talking about how we take care of seniors, we better understand and improve how we take care of all of us. 

Senior care providers regularly treat residents who have multiple chronic (and often complicated) conditions. The importance of knowing each resident’s full health and care history is vital, and technology is the key component that enables piecing it all together. So, where do I see the greatest potential to transform senior care with health IT

The Home Health Takeover

According to AARP research, 87% of Baby Boomers prefer to age in place in their own homes as long as possible. Combine that preference with greater pressure to prevent readmissions and cut costs through more coordinated care, and it comes as no surprise that extending care into the home has been the next logical step in an effort to improve care and connection in the senior space. With the home healthcare industry growing rapidly and new research coming out every day showing that this care can be beneficial, senior living communities are also taking notice and expanding into this space with new investments and home services. At the same, time providers are also beginning to take a closer look at the community experience in an effort to make it feel more comfortable and home-like.

Technology plays a big role in enabling this trend and in supporting seniors wherever they live, both at home and in paving the way for the community of the near future with smart apartments. It also has the potential to seamlessly support transitions in the near future, whether from hospital to home or home to community.

A Perfect Marriage: Wearables Data + Cloud Analytics

Rapid growth in wearables, combined with home health initiatives, has only served to extend the possibilities for senior care. By installing easy-to-use and accessible technology like wearables, sensors and other remote monitoring devices in the home, seniors stay connected to family, caregivers and providers, and critical health data can be captured and monitored in real time. By leveraging this data, changes in health or behavior can be caught quickly, prescription/dosages or therapies can be adjusted, and falls or other emergency events can be prevented before they happen.

This provides families of seniors a new level of information and reassurance about their loved ones’ health and care. It also offers seniors greater comfort, ownership and involvement in their own care and the confidence to stay independent longer. More broadly, in-home technology has an incredible potential to keep the cost of healthcare and readmission rates down.

New data shows that by monitoring health with easy-to-use technology such as fitness bands, mHealth devices and other remote monitoring technologies, our healthcare system could save $200 billion over the next 25 years and hospital costs could drop by as much as 16% in the next five years. In just one of many recent studies in the realm of home health monitoring, Encompass Home Health & Hospice saw more than a 50% decrease in avoidable transfers by leveraging technology. More of these studies are emerging regularly, looking at heart failure patients, impact to safety and medical costs, preventing readmissions of chronic disease management and more.

The Potential to Connect the Dots: EHRs

As EHR adoption grows in senior care, it offers an even greater opportunity for resident and senior patient data to be managed and shared. Providers who have implemented EHR technology are well aware that it can have an incredible impact on both increasing communication and improving overall resident care. Clinicians are able to more readily track patient data over time, as well as share patient information with other health care providers or specialists no matter the location, with the help of cloud technology — which can be integral to successful EHR migration in the senior space. Cloud-based EMR technology, besides being more secure, also has the benefit of reducing IT requirements and freeing up staff to spend more face-to-face time with residents.

The latest data shows that seniors are increasingly engaged in their own healthcare. Seven out of 10 go online daily, and of that group, 53% do so to get information about healthcare and medical issues. By giving residents full access to their own health data via an EHR, seniors and residents can monitor their own health records, empowering them to feel more involved in and in control of their own care. This can also inspire them to be more motivated and committed to their overall health.

What technology do you think is transforming senior care the most today? What technology has the greatest potential to transform senior living communities or home healthcare in the future? Tell us on Twitter @CDW_Healthcare with the hashtag #NHITWeek. We’d love to hear your perspective! And see what other blog posts and fun activities we have going on for NHIT Week.

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