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 Alyssa Barratt, University of Kansas
Independence is a trait that most of us want to have for ourselves. However, there are some among us that are incapable of maintaining an independent home life without assistance. Due to advances in both the healthcare and technology fields, staying at home longer with in-home care has never been easier. We can utilize these advances in technology and improve in-home care for seniors even further.
One of the greatest bits of technology we can use is tracking and monitoring devices. AARP Bulletin posted an online article in March 2014 titled “New Technology Could Allow You or Your Parents to Age at Home”. In the article, Sally Abrahms speaks of a system called Lively. It allows the caregiver to place sensors on areas that need monitoring, such as pillboxes, bathroom doors, keys, and even the refrigerator. It records not only the usage of the item, such as how many times the bathroom was occupied, but also can be used as a tracking, GPS like device when placed on keys, phone, or in a vehicle itself. The Lively system also alerts the caregiver if any unusual activity occurs. This technology could save time and money for home health companies in low-level assistance patients and those that live in rural areas. Instead of checking on a patient multiple times a week, the monitoring device would be able to provide data regarding the patients’ activities.
Interim Healthcare has an excerpt on their website that speaks of technology in home health care. Their statement does well to summarize where technology has brought us in the medical field. “Technology can bring services to individuals, rather than the individual to services.” The article cites many advances such as “intravenous infusion technology, radiography, ultrasound, feeding pumps, ventilators, pulse oximeters, hand-held blood analysis devices,” and other technology pieces that were once found only in hospitals, and are now almost as commonly used in home health care practices. This improves in-home healthcare immensely. If the patient is in some way unable to leave the home, there is inclement weather, or other circumstances warrant it, these services provided at home can save a patient from hospital expenses and also allows the in-home agency to generate increased revenue that they otherwise would not receive.
Utilizing telemedicine, the use of communication and technology to provide healthcare services at an extended distance has the potential to change the face of healthcare that we know today. Baby Steps, funded by the National Science Foundation, uses technology to record children’s progress from birth to five years of age. This software allows for monitoring and can be used to discern if treatment can be dispensed at the home or if an emergency room visit is in order. If we utilize this same technology for patients in home health situations, there are many benefits. A patient may be saved from hospital bills, a primary care physician appointment could be scheduled, a home health nurse could be dispatched for assistance, or a simple reassuring statement could be given to the patient.
While there may be a heightened cost to implement these technological advances into everyday home health medical practices, the patient would save a great deal on medical expenses in the long run as well as allow the home health agency to generate more revenue than ever before. These advances improve in-home healthcare to American seniors.
Alyssa is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in mathematics along with her teacher’s certification for secondary level education at the University of Kansas.