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 Corinna Cook, Boise State University
The healthcare industry can use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors. In-home technology allows patients to receive daily monitoring and video visits from a nurse or therapist. Quality home health care faces several challenges, such as limited providers and funding. In the rural areas where I live, large geographic distances make resources often more costly. It is difficult to make same day appointments with physicians or medical providers. Transportation is often challenging for patients because of the distance they have to travel and the severe weather conditions in the winter. Bringing specialized medical monitoring to patients in need will supplement the in-person home visits and ultimately save money by helping to reduce hospitalizations and the use of emergent care services. In-home technology such as telecommunication, monitoring devices and a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) have the potential to support health care delivery and education of patient and care givers.
In order to increase the safety and quality of life for patients, services such as the telecommunication have been implemented. While no technology can take the place of personal interaction, video chat services like Skype or Internet-based communication channels such as FaceTime and social media, can supplement seniors’ social interactions when visits with friends and family are not possible. Such systems provide patients with easier access to the Internet from their rooms, but more importantly, also make communicating with family members and friends easier and more enjoyable. Rural areas such as Eastern Oregon, experience a shortage of physicians and specialized care facilities. My town Pendleton only has a rural health care clinic and a small hospital to cover basic services and emergency care. If patients require a more specialized consultation they would have to travel four hours to the next larger hospital in Portland, Oregon. With telecommunication such as video conferencing with a patient, primary care physicians and specialists can eliminate long distance travels.
Monitoring devices are being used to allow more frequent interaction with patients. Offering scheduled monitoring in the home of patients with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, will hopefully avoid complications and hospitalizations. These tools offer information that can be used by nurses with their patients and determine or adjust the course of treatments; illnesses can be diagnosed faster and patients will be able to receive interventions faster. Electronic record keeping can be shared by multiple health providers instantly. These tools provide reassurance to patients as information can be forwarded to the clinician and acted upon immediately or stored for future discussion with another provider. Portable diagnostic devices can assist nurses in analyzing blood and urine samples instantly to monitor a patients condition, therefore, eliminating visits to the hospital. Results can be directly sent to primary care physicians to be analyzed and immediate measures can be taken to manage patients’ symptoms.
Nowadays, especially in poverty stricken, rural areas, it is often a hardship for families to take their elderlies to medical appointments due to the lack of public transportation. Family members often have to take time off from work and have to have dependable transportation to get to the appointments on time. Training of patients and their caretakers in the use of technology and monitoring of their health conditions will result in improved communication with care providers, awareness and understanding of patients’ condition. Safety is another concern for seniors, who live home alone. Any senior, who lives alone should have a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) available. This device allows the patient to call for help with the simple push of a button. Both seniors and their families can have reassurance knowing the PERS is an easy call for help in any emergency situation. The integration of this technology into the hospice environment can help contribute to overall patient comfort, as well as provide more and better care opportunities for care providers. Even though we live in a time where technology is prevalent and offers many benefits, quality care should always include person to person contact with a nurse or physician. A combination of human touch and speedy technology is the key to any successful in-home medical care.
Corinna is a student at Boise State University.