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 Seyed Milad Ghoreishi
New technology is constantly being implemented into healthcare within the United States. The primary reason for this is safer and more efficient patient care. Using technology within the in-home care sector of healthcare would provide the same effect. There is already the presence of technology within the homes of seniors that have been created to provide more safety and independence to the elderly. The most well known example is Life Alert, which is a necklace that contains a button that detects falls and can be pressed at any time when emergency help is needed. This simple step alone has put family members worries of mothers and fathers falling within their home at ease, since this device is made to detect and respond quickly. Another genius technologic medical device that is used at home for seniors with dementia and earlier stages of Alzheimer is an electronic medication dispenser. This dispenser sounds an alarm and dispenses the correct dose of medication, significantly decreasing the incidence of medication overdose. These two simple devices alone allow for seniors to enjoy the comfort of their own home while retaining independence. If the technology that is currently being used within the hospital setting is integrated within the in-home care setting, the opportunities to improve care among seniors could be endless.
I believe the continuation of care to be the most important link in caring for patients. Currently there is what is called the “Revolving Door Syndrome” that is occurring within our healthcare system, which is the readmission of patients for the same medical reason within 30 days. Though several aspects are involved in this issue, an efficient continuation of care could possibly result is a dramatic decrease of these readmissions. With technology, electronic charting could be achieved and viewed by the team of healthcare professionals involved. The time that it could take for information to be obtained and relayed to a specific healthcare professional would also be cut down. For example, lab results can be posted within a patient’s electronic chart as soon as they are received, and can clearly be displayed for the caring physician when they are needed. Messages can also be sent and received as soon as the recipient is available, allowing for a faster response time to any particular questions, such as a nurse requesting a specific medication for a patient she has just seen at home.
In addition to better communication among the healthcare team, electronic charting can provide improved monitoring of medical conditions. For example, among the elderly population is a slower wound healing time. Each nurse caring for the wound could possibly upload a picture of the wound to view how quickly the wound is healing, what medication is treating the wound best, or if changes need to be made. The use of computer technology could also act as a safety net in decreasing the risk of medical error, such as an E-Script prescription that can prewrite normal doses of specific medications. This way abnormal or incorrect doses can be flagged and checked by the physician before sending it to the pharmacy. There would also be a decrease the amount of time it takes for a patient to receive refills on prescriptions, since it would be much easier to electronically send the script to the pharmacy.
Another cost effective and efficient use of technology would be to integrate video chat between patients and physicians to provide for better patient care. This way the physician can actually see the patient’s health status and speak with them directly about any concerns, rather than having the patient travel to see the doctor. Physicians can then write out orders and care plans for the visiting in-home care nurse and caregiving staff to carry out.
There is really no debate. Increasing the usage of technology within the in-home care of seniors has many positive aspects with the improvement of care being the most significant. Safety and efficiency is key in providing the best patient care, which can be provided by the use of technology.
Seyed is focusing on computer programming and networking while writing programs that can run networks and change the way things are implemented on the Internet.