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New technologies enlisted by home healthcare agencies are taking patient care to a whole new level. Whether it be sensors that that are worn by patients, tele-health practices used over landline telephones or electronic devices, or GPS devices that track misplaced eyeglasses, a plethora of technologies are available to lessen the burden for in-home patients and those who care for them.
These methods have been engineered with ease of use since most of today’s elderly are not equipped to handle drastic technological changes. Aging experts, however, have determined that if elderly patients adopted more of today’s technologies, they could remain in their homes for greater lengths of time.
Certainly all HHAs take into account the need to drive healthcare delivery costs down, and as a home healthcare agency, your primary purpose is to offer your patients quality alternatives to nursing homes and assisted living care facilities. With that said, let’s take a look at where technology is taking home healthcare agencies and their patients.
What’s New in HHA Technologies?
So what’s new in providing first-rate, cost-effective care to those patients who are able to stay in their homes? More often than not, the answer lies in the technologies that keep caregivers and their patients connected and medical information flowing.
For starters, GPS tracking technologies are available that are worn by patients. Here an automated alert to a 24/7 tele-health nurse or the home healthcare agency is signaled if a patient falls, skips a meal or a med, or doesn’t arise from bed in the morning, to name a few scenarios. If your HHA uses a tele-health call center, you would be alerted by the center so that a visiting nurse or an ambulance can be dispatched.
Remote Patient Monitoring Sensor
Another device your patients can wear is an advanced remote patient monitoring sensor, which can also be attached to the interiors of their home. This technology permits providers, families and law enforcement to locate elderly individuals should they deviate from their normal routine for those patients who shouldn’t wander out of their home or if a burner is left on, as well as other such occurrences. Some of the newest sensors are designed to wear as a non-intrusive watch.
Mobile apps are available if a senior has a smartphone where all they have to do is tap a panic button that can be linked to any number of people and/or agencies. Remote monitoring tools serve as another excellent technology. These tools can also be utilized in conjunction with smartphones for self-monitoring of specific vitals, which are also delivered to the HHA. This benefits the patient in that it would otherwise require face time with a physician or visiting nurse.
Analytics & Big Data
Another way to monitor potentially concerning patient outcomes is through analytics and big data captured via an in-home sensor that combines analytics software with clinical and operational patient data. A nurse accesses the data through an online dashboard, reviewing it each day for any concerning medical status changes. This also helps determine when or if your nurse should visit the patient, when the patient should see a doctor, or if the patient should seek emergency treatment.
Tele-health and Home Healthcare
Telehealth is a burgeoning domain that is expected to transform the ways in which home healthcare is delivered. According to Pew Research, only 18% of seniors currently own and use smartphones. While some tele-health practices can be performed via landlines, most are conducted by way of electronic devices and other applications such as:
Based on that same research, 46% of older individuals use online social media, and with the oldest of the Baby Boomers currently at retirement age, tele-health technologies are expected to catapult.
*Sandata Technologies, LLC, has withdrawn its participation from the EVV Initiative but will continue to support current clients until May 31, 2015. Existing Sandata clients may also contact KanTime.
How Telehealth Benefits HHAs and their Patients
Telehealth provides a vast array of cost benefits in the home healthcare arena since medical data is accessed remotely by physicians and nurses. And this isn’t just on the HHA side; tele-health is advantageous to patients because they can offset travel costs to and from doctor appointments and not risk travel in adverse conditions. These patients can interact with healthcare providers via video appointments that stream right into their homes.
Additionally, hospitalizations can be offset when tele-health technologies alert patients and providers as to potential medical conditions where preventative practices can be applied. This is not to say that hospitalizations can be avoided altogether with tele-health, but study after study has demonstrated decreases of hospital admissions for those elderly patients who receive at least some in-home care via these tools.
Besides tele-health offering real-time medical data, the opportunities for patient reminders and patient education are unlimited. Not only that, but the reimbursement landscape for provider services is growing as witnessed by the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2014, which will loosen tele-health population service requirements and expand remote patient monitoring over the next few years.
Undoubtedly, more and more tele-health reimbursements will be realized by home healthcare agencies as time goes on, so stay tuned. I’ll be happy to keep you abreast of anything new!