Much has been written about the ways in which technology is improving healthcare, but home healthcare doesn’t always have immediate access to the same advances. Many of the advances in healthcare pertain to diagnostics which, of course, wouldn’t really pertain to home healthcare because you couldn’t bring most of those innovations mobile. Can you imagine having a mobile MRI or CAT device? Perhaps in the future, but not at this time. So then, how are some of the ways in which technology is improving home healthcare without sending the patient mobile?
A Look at Active Technology
Before exploring some of the advances in technology that are improving home healthcare it is important to understand that many of these innovations are active technologies. This means, in its most basic definition, that the technology is monitoring or measuring something such as a fall or a bodily function and is then sending the information to the receiving party to be analyzed remotely.
1. Real Time Response
Many home healthcare workers such as RNs and CNAs appreciate having the ability to fit their patients with wearables that will immediately ‘sound the alarm’ if any measurements fall outside predefined parameters. Lifeline care at home devices used by Cooperative Healthcare are a prime example of how technology is improving response times. Lifeline care at home wearables, for example, have the ability to send vitals to the healthcare agency. Fall detection is another feature of a wearable like Lifeline so that if your patient should fall, the agency will be immediately alerted, and help is on the way!
2. Social Interaction via Digital Technology
Perhaps innovations in this type of technology serve two very real purposes at the same time. Consider for a moment how the cost of home healthcare may not be approved under a patient’s insurance, private or government, and so the number of hours and treatment plans available for home healthcare is limited. Connected digital technology such as Zoom, or Facebook video calling enables the healthcare worker to check in regularly with patients without charging a home visit. However, social interaction on a personal level is healthy as well.
3. Patient-Facing Active Technologies
As a home healthcare worker, there are things you had always wished you could do for your patients but some of those things were virtually impossible. For example, you may have a patient who is in the early onset of dementia and is likely to forget taking medicines at the prescribed our – or at all! It would be next to impossible to call all your patients on your caseload at varying times of the day, and several times a day, at that. Some of the advances in active technology enable you to program reminders so that the patient hears a sound or prerecorded message and is then able to take medications as prescribed on time.
Many of these innovations have been in development for years but are only ‘just’ being approved for use within the industry. Imagine for just a moment a patient with Amazon’s Echo dot and the Alexa app. While not actually approved for home healthcare, this is something every home healthcare nurse could program for the patient to ensure lights are automated to turn on and off at scheduled times and that the patient is reminded to set the trash out on collection day. Doesn’t it make you wonder where the future of home healthcare technology is headed next?