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 Dana Waff, Indiana State University

I made the decision to seek my degree in Health Administration with a certification in gerontology because I understand the increase in demand for healthcare practitioners needed as a result of the aging population. I am expressing interest for the In-Home Care Innovation Scholarship because I have previously learned about various innovations in technology that have proved to enhance the quality of life for seniors.

The goal in my approach of presenting a solution which applies technology to improve in- home care, has two main objectives consisting of quality and practicality. While using these two values as my lens in addressing the challenges facing in-home care I found the most feasible road to take is one which requires low change in behavior and can easily be integrated, and learned. The Independent Accountability Network (I.A.N.) is a web- based app, managed and funded via a non- profit organization. Challenges facing in- home care that I believe my solution addresses are cost, educating and integrating accessibility for society’s seniors and youth. The essay topic I will be addressing is; “How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?”

Through my research I found the major challenges facing in-home care, on both a macro and micro level, to be consistent with the findings revealed in Health Services Research report The 2030 Problem: Caring for Aging Boomers. Research by Knickman and Snell (2002), reveals there are 4 major challenges: “(1) Development of payment and insurance systems for long – term care that works better than existing; (2) Taking advantage of advances in medicine and behavioral health to keep the elderly as healthy and active as possible; (3) Changing the way society organizes community services so that care is more accessible; & lastly, (4) Altering the cultural views of aging to make sure all ages are integrated into the fabric of community life.”

I.A.N. is a 3rd party app that connects seniors and their families to a network of trained volunteers. Volunteers of the app will be required to go through a background check and verification process. The network has bulletin postings of activities, duties, and needs of seniors. This bulletin is accessible to volunteer members who then can decide which postings they are able to fulfill. Members are thus connected in-app and able to direct message as well. The app will also enable parties to set appointment and additions to their calendar in- app as well. Members are able to keep track of tasks completed, as well as most active members. There will also be a feedback loop, which all parties can employ to share experiences and recommendations. In- app members can tip volunteers for their services if they please, but also have the understanding that individuals providing care are not employees yet volunteers for the non- profit managing of the app. Funding for the non- profit would go towards marketing,  training volunteers, outreach, and educating prospective members.

I.A.N. would also work to establish a network of licensed care providers, physicians, nurses, etc. that can interact in-app to address non- emergency concerns. This also helps with positioning the app in the industry, in recruiting these care providers we are able to educate them on our services and mission. By doing this we can use employee word of mouth to help recruit seniors and their family members to join our network. As far as volunteers, this country has an ever growing number of organizations that require its members to acquire a specified minimum number of community services hours. On college campuses we can present the app to some of the various student organizations, and get them involved with our mission as volunteers.

The benefit of the app and this approach is that strategy can be adopted and adjusted to fit targeted recruiting demographics. In addition, while using the app to connect volunteers to those seeking care cuts down on the cost of employment, and cost of getting care for seniors. Using effective incentives for all parties and proper site and management this ecosystem can be sustained for long- term use. Further employing technology to produce training material and integrating it into the web- based app can cut down on the cost of administering training, in that it allows for accessibility virtually anywhere. The key to this solutions success would be the team executing it. The potential of such a network is nearly infinite and could grow as big as one’s vision, all the better that it is an actual feasible solution. I believe this solution can begin to be developed now, integrated into society, and used for proactive measures before 2030.

About Dana

Dana is currently completing her senior year at Indiana State University.

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