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How Tech Advanced are Facilities?
Advanced Technology in Assisted Living

Health Technology
Health Technology

Healthcare organizations are increasingly relying on advanced technology and wireless networks to improve patient and resident care, increase efficiency and enhance the patient, resident and visitor experience. From hospitals to assisted living facilities and medical clinics, wireless networks and technology is ever-present.

Hospitals led the senior care providers into using technology to access Electronic Medical Records (EMRs): At the point of care, in public work areas and in staff lounges. The professional care staff uses powerful and affordable communications devices to make tasks easier and to work more efficiently.

Senior living communities and nursing homes heavily depend upon occupancy rate to ensure profitability. Today, assisted living facilities face challenges of serving a growing market that's laden with chronic illnesses, dementia, and obesity.

The graph below illustrates 37% of assisted living facilities have technology to measure demographic information. For the 63% who do not, the pressure is on to gather specific health data of residents. If facilities fail to address these growing health issues and ignore real data and facts about residents, they face decreased occupancy rates and increased operating costs.

Does this facility have the following computerized capabilities? Resident Demographics
Responses of don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

How Technology Improves Care

Preparing assisted living facilities to deliver care coordination and remote care monitoring of chronic conditions helps to avoid movement of residents to higher levels of critical care.

Fortunately, assisted living facilities are catching up in adopting advanced wireless technology for health and wellness capabilities that match the wireless care technologies used by hospitals.

The trends in senior healthcare that drive assisted living facilities to wireless capabilities:

  1. Widespread adoption of Electronic Medical Records used in hospitals to eliminate paper, automate manual processes and improve efficiencies is infiltrating other healthcare areas. For example, hospitals use e-charting to enhance point of care - at the bedside, in the hallway or in a lounge.
  2. Currently, Electronic Medical Records measure four components (resident demographics, nursing assessments, problem and medication lists) in 17% of assisted living facilities (see graph below).
  3. Establishing and maintaining technology, is a costly investment. The for-profit communities have the financial infrastructure to adopt EMR earlier than other facilities. Policymakers believe that the adoption and subsequent use of electronic medical records are essential to improving the quality and efficiency of the U.S. healthcare system.

Implementing EMR in ALF settings enables immediate, electronic access to an individual's health record, which results in efficient, integrated care across healthcare settings.

Other than for accounting or billing purposes, does this facility use Electronic Health Records? This is a computerized version of the resident's health and personal information used in the management of the resident's health care.
Responses of not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Electronic Medical Records Facilitate Better Care

Electronic Medical records

Assisted living facilities use Electronic Medical Records to capture resident care and to:

  • Facilitate compliance, mitigate risk and reduce costs
  • Accurately document the care given
  • Promote effective and efficient facility management.
  • Eliminate paper inefficiencies, i.e. faxing orders, re-documentation
  • Document and monitor facility workflow on a real-time basis
  • Decrease paperwork hours allowing more time for quality care
  • Pharmacy savings through appropriate medication management
  • Track medications
  • Provide allergy alerts and formulary checks
  • Prepare facilities for seamless and successful surveys

Advantages of Electronic Medical Records:

  1. Reduce your paperwork. The new patient questionnaire remains in the doctor's office but as additional information gets added to your medical record (by you), the doctor has more data available as soon as you arrive. This means fewer and shorter forms for you to complete at each visit.
  2. Gets updated health data accurately into the hands of people who need it to avoid medical mistakes. Viewing updated records enables care providers to make the best possible decisions, specifically in a crisis.
  3. Helps your medical team to coordinate care and protect your safety; particularly if you see more than one specialist in addition to a primary care physician. Each prescribes different drugs, and in some cases, these drugs may interact in harmful ways.

Electronic capabilities that records physician and medical healthcare providers for each resident exists in 37% of the assisted living facilities. The remaining 67% of the facilities do not but solely rely on paper files and documentation. Think about it, if an emergency should occur, how quickly can staff respond using paper files?

Does this facility have the following computerized capabilities? Medical Provider Information
Responses of don't know (< 1%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Remote Monitoring

Resident Monitoring
Resident Monitoring

If test results are electronically stored, it reduces unnecessary tests and procedures like repeat medical tests. Repeat tests--results in higher costs to you in the form of bigger bills and increased insurance premiums.

Gives direct access to your health records so that you can identify wrong and missing information, and make additions or corrections as needed. This access may also allow you to communicate directly and securely with your health care provider.

Remote Monitoring - With the help of technology, assisted living care staff can enable residents to live as long as possible at the appropriate level of independence, and respond to changes in care needs at a moment's notice.

Remote monitoring technology passively monitors residents to help caregivers proactively manage chronic conditions, identify health changes, and support early stage memory care. The technology helps keep couples dealing with memory care needs together and keeps residents out of a skilled nursing environment.

Benefits of Remote Care Monitoring

Better assessment, early intervention - helps residents maintain independence, lessening discharge. Remote monitoring helps staff measure resident's ability to perform activities of daily living - bathing, dressing and eating. Essentially, allowing care providers better calculate needed treatment or identify potential health issues early on.

Fall prevention - using sensors and monitors the care staff to recognize falls as soon as they occur. Using technology for fall prevention lessens accidents which is the greatest threat to healthy aging. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of adults 65 and older experience a fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among the senior population.

Wellness Management Solutions or Electronic Point of Care

Vitals monitoring a vital component within electronic point of care systems. It also provides activity of daily living (ADL) reminders for residents to create customized reminders and check-in calls. The calls remind a resident to take medicine or monitor a health condition.

Even though studies show sustained patient compliance is crucial for best quality of health, only 6% of assisted living facilities offer electronically recorded point of care technology for residents.

Does this facility's staff use any system for Electronic Point of Care Documentation? This includes PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants), notebook PCs, or other portable hand held devices.
Responses of not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Advantages of Electronic Point of Care

Improved Point of Care
Improved Point of Care

Enhanced medication timing - studies show that about 50% of patients comply with their medication schedule and if there is better compliance for personalized medicine, residents have increased adherence and reduced costs.

Wellness management solutions use predictive modeling in an attempt to reduce hospital re-admissions based on statistical methods. When using behavior analytics, it can predict a patient's behavior pattern. It's based on the fact that the body knows subconsciously that it's undergoing a change even before it manifests itself and a patient can express it.

Web-enabled wellness monitoring technologies enable healthcare providers to engage their patients and residents in managing their health condition. Real-time screening tools monitor medication, diet and exercise to improve quality of life, strengthen patient-physician communications and avoid non-compliance issues. The value demonstrated through improved outcomes, shows results in lower healthcare costs from reduced hospital admissions and emergency room visits.

Other Benefits for Residents

  • Better care through faster diagnoses
  • Enhanced "Quality of Life"
  • Access to 24/7/365 clinical monitoring staff
  • Better health outcomes in assisted living environment

While there are many technologies that track and record real-time care activities (and many more in development), only 16% of assisted living facilities offer computerized service records for residents.

Other than for accounting or billing purposes, does this facility have a computerized system for its Resident Service Records to keep track of the services provided to each resident?
Responses of legitimate skip (17%), and not ascertained (< 1%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Facility Responses)

Nurse Call Technology

Nurse mobility and nurse call technology - nurses and aides receive calls from residents' family members and care team members while on-the-go. When a wireless handset integrates with a nurse call system, residents use nurse call buttons at bedside and in the bathroom to call for assistance.

  • Centralized alarm management through nurse-call integration
  • Mobile duress with enhanced location data to locate residents in need more quickly
  • Surveillance camera integration
  • Door/window contact alarms
  • Motion detection
  • Door entrance monitoring
  • Temperature monitoring/logging (e.g., refrigerators for food and medicine)
  • Operational status of generators, boilers, water heaters, pumps, etc.
  • Medicine reminders
  • Inclement weather alerts
  • General announcements and activity reminders or schedule changes
  • Reporting mechanism for compliance, response times, etc.

Caregiver Network Tools

Caregiver Tools
Caregiver Tools

The adult children and family members want access to information about their loved one. Emails, website access, or regular phone contact with the assisted living facility's professional caregivers give family members the data and peace of mind they expect.

Assisted living facilities that use technology tools for family members can generate reports about a resident's daily activities, check-ins, or health data. These reports are system-generated and emailed to the adult children and other family members.

Professional caregivers receive an email of the same report(s) to obtain a handle on the health status of residents in the community, optimize staffing, and proactively manage early onset issues.

These tools add to the appeal of a community for the adult children looking to stay connected to their parent's health & wellness.

List of Caregiver Tech Tools

GPS safety technology devices provides location of the wearer: worn on the wrist, as a clip-on, or on a pendant. The instrument sets specific parameters so that if a person goes outside the "set" areas, an email, text, or phone call alerts the caregiver.

Personal emergency response systems (PERS) has optional GPS technology, it's the Medic Alert model. If the wearer is in trouble (falls), she presses a button and connects with a call center that dispatches help and notify caregivers.

Stay connected via Internet applications like Skype, email, audio messages, online networking with others like you in similar situations through forums, websites with articles targeted to specific concerns and audience.

Medication management, dispensers and reminders for people to take their meds, alert them via email, a buzzer, or a bell, if they forget. A notification to the caregiver alerts for noncompliance.

Mobile PERS - a mobile medical alert.

Care Coordination: Shared website for caregivers and others interested in pitching in to help and/or get updates or services to connected families with professional caregivers.

Tech Savvy Devices

More and more seniors are tech-savvy in today's market and residents and visitors are increasingly at ease using technology. They want the same high-speed wireless services they enjoyed at home and visitors expect to connect to the Internet everywhere they go. Easy-to-use tablets and smartphones promote demand for always-connected attitudes. These powerful and inexpensive devices are in demand by a growing portion of the population.

  • Cell phones are essential for everyone, it seems. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, approximately 91 percent of Americans own a cellphone (May 2013). Seniors, who prefer no-contract deals, can select from a number of wireless phone carriers for one.
  • Smartphones are senior-friendly with models that have larger buttons and readouts. Smartphone apps help perform critical safety functions like providing medication reminders and GPS locations.
  • Video games for residents play an important role in healthy aging. While many benefits contribute to cognitive functioning, research suggests that same advantages might have a positive effect on seniors' mobility. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that seniors who play brain training computer games also experienced better gait and balance.

56 percent of seniors prefer card or tile games, while 52 percent lean-to games that test their logic skills. A total of 27 percent of this group like to play trivia, word or board games. Across all game platforms, citizens age 50 and over are exercising their minds and bodies, connecting with family members, and having fun with video games.

Benefits of Tech Games

The most revealing research comes from a North Carolina State University study that found older adults who played video games enjoyed substantial health benefits. The study measured a poll of 140 adults aged 63 and older. Researchers found that older adults who played video games - even occasionally - enjoyed a higher level of emotional and physical health.

Other Tech Savvy Devices

Hearing aids - wearing bulky listening devices is no longer an excuse for older adults to go without hearing aids. The devices show much improvement using wireless transmissions like Bluetooth. Hearing aids are tiny, transparent, and nearly invisible-or even implanted.

  1. Skype - communicating with friends and family living at a distance is a snap. Seniors can view loved ones in real-time, and it's available for smartphones, tablets, and regular computers.
  2. GPS - If you're worried about a resident wandering or getting lost, GPS technology alerts caregivers to the "lost" resident's location. There are separate GPS trackers that attach to the wrist or clothing, as well as Smartphone GPS apps.
  3. Home assistive devices in an assisted living apartment help seniors remain independent and safe. Besides home monitoring and GPS, there are devices such as LED lighting, medication dispensing appliances, photo-enhanced phone dialers, and stove shut-off systems, all help seniors with mild cognitive and motor impairment.

The graphs illustrated here reveal that assisted living facilities fall behind hospitals in implementing technology. If studies prove that senior health improves with real-time data and care, then it makes sense that more facilities need to adapt and carry out healthcare technology.

Executive Director

The Executive Director oversees all aspects of the life of the residents, ranging from medical needs to overseeing maintenance and upkeep of the facility.

The executive director is often the face of the residence, involved in everything from showing the facility to prospective residents to hiring staff. Ideally, the Executive Director has a background in Person-Centered Care is able to best facilitate an enriching environment for the residents. In small residences, the owner may serve as the Executive Director.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.