Technology plays a vital role in our day to day lives. Older adults and their children rely on the advances of technology to complete many daily tasks such as communicating with family and friends, controlling their homes’ environmental settings and security and researching information.
Artificial intelligence and technology have become integral parts of our lives, allowing us to access information like never before. “The study of AI began as a defense project in the 1960s with the goal of understanding how humans process information. The concept was to replicate that processing with devices that will do it more reliably and without error,” reports McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. It is with this concept in mind that technology has been introduced into long-term care facilities to enrich the quality of life for the residents who live there.
The Role of Technology in Long-Term Care
Technology has become essential to a growing population of aging seniors and baby boomers. In fact, many people consider the technological advancements of a long-term care community to be just as important as other factors when deciding where to live.
An article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information entitled “Technology for Long-Term Care,” suggests that many communities are focusing on incorporating technology into the fabric of their communities and the care they provide to residents.
In addition to providing better care, other reasons behind the technological push include:
- Attracting tech-savvy residents
- Decreasing staff turnover
- Maintaining financial viability amid regulatory compliance
- Reducing liability, given the shortage of nursing staff
- Surviving competition from the increasing number of long-term care housing options
Healthcare isn’t the only industry that has shown an interest in investing in technology. Private initiatives such as the Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST), government agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), technology-based companies including Intel and Microsoft and universities have all invested in a broad range of new technologies to benefit and support older adults.
There is no denying it: we live in a rapidly advancing society and long-term care communities must embrace technology to remain competitive.
The Top Technologies in Long-Term Care
There are many different technological features that are featured in long-term care facilities, including:
1. Activity Sensors and Biosensors
Can be embedded in (i.e. a pacemaker), worn (i.e. lifeline devices) or placed in a residents’ environment (i.e. fall prevention technology) to monitor overall health and wellness risks.
2. Electronic Health/Medical Record (HER/EMR) Systems
These systems provide complete information about residents, including their allergies, conditions, medications, needs and preferences.
3. Electronic Records Sharing
With electronic records sharing health providers (including hospitals, physicians and other primary care providers) can electronically share the health records of residents to ensure no small detail is missed. According to iAdvance Senior Care, “this is extremely important for elderly residents, particularly around transitions of care.”
4. Intuitive Computers
Graphic-user and touchscreen interfaces are beneficial for both residents and staff. Frontline staff can more efficiently perform the duties of their role, including electronic documentation and voice-activated data entry, while residents can stay connected with email, internet browsing, memory boosting activities and social networking.
5. Telehealth and Telemedicine Services
Telehealth services make collaborative healthcare amongst healthcare providers a reality. “Patient consultations via videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine,” explains iAdvance Senior Care.
6. Wireless Data Communication
Wireless data allows handheld devices, laptops and tablets to be used as mobile, point-of-care systems. No longer do front line staff have to be tethered to a wired work station, they can now provide direct patient care – and access state-of-the-art medical technologies such as e-prescribing and physician electronic order entry systems – wherever the patient may be.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “one of the greatest potential benefits from current and emerging technologies would be a possibility to provide a new person-centered environment in LTC settings.”
Person-centered care includes:
- Supporting activities of daily life
- Enriching resident quality of life
- Promoting a sense of control and dignity
- Addressing safety (falls, wandering)
- Enhancing self-care activities (bathing, medication, eating, mobility, sleeping)
- Enhancing communication (social interaction and connection)
- Supporting entertainment (recreation, leisure).
Technology is the way of the future. Long-term care communities who do not adapt and change with the times may be swept behind, losing residents and revenue to other more tech-savvy communities.
What do you think about the use of technology in long-term care? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.