Do an Internet search about the latest trends in senior care technology these days, and you will turn up some mixed results on the state of the industry. Findings might include a story on a start-up app just receiving a large round of funding or a claim that virtual reality will be the next big thing for grandma. You may just as likely encounter an article on the tech struggles of the elderly or another noting the lack of budget, preventing senior living communities from even think about innovating beyond today’s technology.
However, over the last couple of years, the direction has begun to evolve, as it did previously in the broader healthcare industry, and both senior care and home health organizations – which includes senior living, assisted living, independent living, Memory Care, skilled nursing, hospice and home care – are headed in a brave new direction. This post gives a 2017 snapshot of where we’re at and where we’re headed when it comes to Aging 2.0.
- The struggle is real
Senior care is certainly conflicted about technology, which is often reflected in wide-ranging media takeaways. For example, when CNN recently reported on a Pew Research report, they noted that one-third of US seniors don’t use the Internet, while other sources, including Pew Research themselves, emphasized the dramatic growth in tech adoption of seniors over the last few years – in smartphones (4 in 10, doubling 2013 rates), Internet use (67% of seniors go online today), tablets (32% own them) and social media (34% use it). And while some seniors who are “aging in place” believe wearables will improve care, experts like Laurie Orlov argues we’re not there yet.
In fact, 70% of caregivers say tech plays no role or a minor role in their work. On top of that, a look back at 2016 shows that senior living providers reduced their tech spending that year. Certainly a mixed bag indeed! Yet, technology investments in various areas of the industry are beginning. Case in point: while senior care communities may not be taking telehealth seriously yet, a recent Ziegler survey also shows they are serious about EMR/EHR platforms, rehab and home care services and increasingly remote monitoring and mobile technology.
- Seniors are demanding more, and many in this space are starting to recognize missed opportunities.
As technology has become more prolific across our everyday lives, seniors are using technology more than ever. The Baby Boomer crowd is starting to prove that even when it comes to digital health, they are ready and willing to engage – in June of this year Walgreens noted that 55% of their mobile app users are 55 or older.
In a recap of CES this year, the author noted that too many companies are still missing the elder care opportunity. Others have echoed this sentiment, noting it as an overlooked technology market. But this is starting to change. The home health market is now one of the fastest growing areas for mobile health and telehealth, and remote monitoring tools are proving especially popular. Many healthcare organizations who offer home health care services are seeing opportunities to use remote monitoring to reduce readmission rates and prevent unneeded hospitalizations. Senior living communities and home health organizations alike are realizing the benefits for this technology, as well as taking it a step further with “smart” senior living systems. However, today’s most successful senior care owners and operators understand that striking the balance of needs will be important.
- Impact is at the forefront of consideration and pilots abound.
In 2016, close to 1 in 7 people (often older adults) returned to hospitals within a month of being discharged, so preventing readmissions has been top of mind in senior care, particularly in home health, as is controlling costs. As a result, technology-enabled care pilots have been popular, and they are building insights and evidence for better implementation and broader adoption.
Their measurable impact is beginning to mount:
- One healthcare insurer found a remote monitoring system helped seniors live in their home longer and reduced total medical expense by $687 per member per month.
- FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a nonprofit health system, achieved $1.9M in readmission savings with a 53% reduction in re-hospitalizations, partially through the use of telehealth software.
- EmoryHealthcare, through the implementation of a tele-ICU platform, reduced readmissions and saved $4.6M over a period of 15 months, in comparison to 15 months prior to implementation.
- Encompass Home Health & Hospice leveraged technology to decrease the risk of avoidable transfers by more than 50%.
- Primary care doctors and internal medicine specialists see promise for a number of technologies in helping with chronic disease management.
- Big Data and mobile tech ease of use are big areas to watch.
Is Big Data coming to senior health? “I hope so,” says Rob Love, senior living marketing expert. His extensive argument speaks to the benefits of wearables, and more importantly, that as these devices improve their data collection and analysis techniques, they have great potential to predict and prevent future challenges for senior care residents. Al Baker, cofounder of Reemo, agrees, and explores four areas where data is shaping the way we approach senior care in his article for McKnight’s.
Although mass roll-out of predictive analytics is still a ways off for senior living, it can be transformative for this population, as was already piloted by Benchmark Senior Living, Big Cloud Analytics and CDW Healthcare and others. A number of independent living and assisted living communities are partnering with Samsung, Reemo and Teradata to conduct “super-charged analytics with smart watch pilots” to gain insights on resident sleep patterns, steps and heart rate, which can be leveraged into clinical insights. And Oregon-based Avamere is testing out IBM Watson technology to measure behavioral and health indicators in their independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing settings to inform better clinical decision making.
Wow, I threw a lot at you! But that’s just a small sample of what’s going on right now when it comes to senior care and technology. I’ll be continuing with a part two to the story in which I cover two more areas of change where opportunities are at play. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, I would love to hear from YOU – what fascinating new technology are you seeing come on the senior care scene? What technology do you believe will have the greatest impact? Leave a comment below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Author: Stephanie Manola, Account Director, Outlook Marketing Services
Marketing and PR pros are looking ahead to 2023's key strategies and biggest challenges.