About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?
Essay response by Berthony Jolis, University of Central Florida
Technology plays a major role in the improvement of senior citizen in-home health care. Years ago, patients would be forced to rely on slow computer systems; as a result, doctors could not receive information regarding the status of a patient’s health intime to possibly save their life. In the last ten years technology has become so advanced to a point where a nurse or caregiver has a patient’s medical information at their fingertips. The onset of certain technologies such as location devices, cell phone applications and implants, allows information to be distributed within a matter of seconds. Extensive research has been done on the role of technology on in-home health care. According to an article written in 2008 titled, “Better Care for Seniors with In-Home Medical Technology,” “ with an estimated 7.6 million people receiving home health care in the U.S. and one-third of the U.S. households having at least one unpaid family medical caregiver present, the use of in-home medical devices is on the rise.”
A technology recently introduced to the world of in home health care is implants. Each implant is smaller than a dime and can transmit data to a remote device for a doctor to read. For example, one implant measures cardiac pressure to indicate heart problems, another is a sensor that measures blood sugar continuously for patients with diabetes, and another one monitors tumor progress for many months after a biopsy. As a result of regular monitoring and instant response, seniors will be less likely to have to take a trip to the emergency room, saving them a lot of money in health care costs. Furthermore, certain tracking devices and cell phone applications have also contributed to the improvement of senior in home health care. For instance, the creation of GPS monitoring systems allows caregivers or nurses to track down the exact location of a patient. Sometimes, caregivers bring a patient outside the house to community events or simply for stroll in the park. What if a caregiver happens to turn their attention away for even a few moments? In that short time, the patient could have wandered off. Many occasions, patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s have this problem. According to the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregiver Association, “ Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. A person with Alzheimer’s may not remember his or her name or address, and can become disoriented, even in familiar places.” GPS trackers can attach to a person’s clothing or be worn on their wrist and some can even be set to alert a family caregiver, via phone, text or email, when a patient goes missing. Moreover, cell phone applications are also a great tool for in home health care.
Connecting patients to their doctors and families is easier than ever with health monitoring mobile phone applications, sometimes called, “connected health.” The monitoring system of the patient’s choice is placed in their home or on their body. The data collected by the machine is transferred to a cell phone and then transmitted to a health record management system at the doctor’s office, Google Health, or an independent service provider. The results are monitored for consistency. In case there is a change in the readings, the individual, doctor, family, or caregiver is notified. Also, a specific cell phone application called, MedCoach Medication Reminder, helps patients remember to take their medications and pills at the right time and day. It can also connect patients to their pharmacy to refill prescriptions. This application can be downloaded on any iPhone device, allowing a wide range of people to take advantage of it.
In totality, the healthcare industry uses technology in many advantageous ways to improve in home health care for senior citizens. While some of the technology solutions for seniors are not yet available or affordable, a number of them are already helping people stay safe at home. Certain technologies such as implant devices, GPS trackers, and cell phone applications contribute to the improvement. Technology allows information to distribute to doctors, nurses and caregivers quicker, allowing many lives to be saved. In the future, technology will only improve even more, making home health care for seniors a more viable choice.
Berthony is currently doing a master’s in civil engineering at the University of Central Florida.