As people age, their needs change. Activities that were simple to manage become more difficult and might require some outside assistance. Senior living communities offer a range of services that can help maintain independence, even in full care facilities. New telecommunications technology and services are what make it possible for seniors to enjoy as much independence as possible. With monitoring software and technology tailored for seniors, many people can enjoy retirement living for longer.
Today’s Telecommunications Services Advance Patient Care for Seniors
When providing long-term care for the elderly, some of the major challenges come under the heading of safety. Senior living facilities need to know where their patients are at all times. Patients with degenerative neurological conditions may wander off and forget how to get back to their rooms. Falls can result in prolonged recovery times.
New telecommunications technologies provide simple and effective solutions for all of these issues. Today, assisted living and nursing care facilities can use Resident Locating Technology to instantly find patients who may not be where they are expected. Wander Management software can send out notifications when a patient leaves the premises or their allowed area. This frees up manpower to handle direct services, instead of spending hours keeping an eye on patients and doing continued head counts.
Keeping track of a patient’s physical location can help minimize the risk of a fall by keeping them away from stairs and other hazards. But, even in areas that are stair and obstruction-free, seniors can lose their balance and fall. Patient monitoring technology has improved to the point where a single monitoring device can detect a fall and instantly notify caregivers. Delays in treatment can be critical and directly impact recovery times, so using Fall Prevention and Detection technology can dramatically improve outcomes.
Many seniors, at home or in an assisted living environment, have a daily regiment of medications to take. Missing doses or taking a double dose can be problematic and result in otherwise unnecessary hospital admissions and readmissions. Changes to the payment models share risks between insurers and providers, so medication errors can have immediate and dramatic impacts on the profitability of a health care provider location. Medication Management systems are designed to reduce the number of errors.
While staff routinely ask about current prescriptions and medications when taking a patient’s history, miscommunications can lead to problems during treatment. Medication Management takes a more holistic view of the process of ensuring prescriptions are provided on time and according to dosage instructions. It starts with the supply line and follows medications throughout the chain, up to and including after a patient is discharged. When dealing with seniors, it is not uncommon for patients to enter and leave recovery facilities several times over the course of a few years. During each stay, providers can access a patient history and more quickly and easily reconcile medications. Better medication management translates into better outcome metrics and a higher rate or reimbursement.
In assisted living and nursing home facilities, the ability to call a nurse during an emergency improves patient outcomes. The Nurse Call market is expected to reach $1.6B by 2020, as aging populations worldwide install communications technologies that better allow patients to communicate with providers. Nurse call systems in long-term care facilities do not need the disruptive tones and alarms used in hospitals. Instead, these call systems can use modulated and pleasant sounds, track calls and send out reminders about unanswered calls. All of this benefits both patients and facilities. Patients can contact nursing staff without causing a major disruption and facilities can track response times and ensure staff is meeting their KPIs.
Many of these services could fall under the heading of telehealth. This term is used to refer to a wide variety of technologies that all provide health, medical and educational services digitally. Live conferencing is now used to deliver therapy appointments in areas where it might be difficult for patients to find a provider. Remote patient monitoring can also fall under the heading of telehealth.
Monitoring patients remotely can reduce the need for readmissions by catching problems early after a patient goes home. Monitoring can also help with diagnostic procedures and the transmission of image studies.
Telecommunications upgrades do not just address health care needs. They also impact daily life and satisfaction levels for residents. The ability to call family or access the internet are both crucial for people who otherwise have limited access to entertainment. Better internet service is particularly important, as VoIP telephone services offer reduced costs on long-distance calling.
With both providers and residents constantly using available bandwidth, it can be a challenge to keep access at acceptable levels throughout a facility. When adopting a hosted PBX model to manage calling and other features, much of the physical infrastructure is located offsite. Hosted PBX solutions can help balance the needs of residents with the needs of the facility, automating much of the work involved in managing such a complicated communications platform.
New telecommunications technologies offer senior care facilities ways to reduce the cost of providing better patient care. Given the transition to outcome-based payments, it is important for healthcare providers to track outcome-based metrics and apply these technologies in situations that might otherwise result in reduced reimbursement for provided care.