Passive versus Remote Monitoring: Is There Really A Difference?

One question we’re commonly asked is, “Is remote monitoring and passive monitoring the same thing?” Like the terminology of any rapidly advancing technology, the nomenclature of senior living tech can be slightly mystifying to those exploring it for the first time. Yet, with just a little learning, the fog clears and the terms make more sense.

Non-Passive Remote Monitoring vs. Passive Monitoring

Passive monitoring, also known as ambient monitoring, does fall under the umbrella of remote monitoring, but passive monitoring is a very specific, non-intrusive form of remote monitoring. At its best, it’s the most advanced and effective form of remote monitoring available to senior living communities today.

Remote monitoring itself is simply any monitoring of senior living residents in their living spaces. In years past, this could involve video cameras or microphones, which senior living staff could use to assure the wellbeing of residents.  Understandably, this type of remote monitoring was never widely adapted because of concerns about privacy and its intrusiveness. And it’s anything but passive, because it requires staff to actively monitor feeds coming from potentially hundreds of units within a community.

Other kinds of older remote monitoring technologies involved electronic wearables, like bracelets or pendants, that can alert staff if an at-risk resident has wandered to an unsafe area, allow residents to ring for help in an emergency, and potentially monitor vital signs. Wearable technology for senior living is also far from passive, as it requires the resident to remember to put on the device, and even to activate it if there has been an adverse event such as a fall.

Passive monitoring has none of the drawbacks of older, non-passive monitoring systems, while it more effectively and efficiently helps to keep residents healthy and safe.

Passive Monitoring and its Benefits

Passive monitoring for senior living communities is built around pressure, motion and depth sensors that residents and their loved ones find far less intrusive than cameras or microphones.These sensors are connected to powerful artificial intelligence that learns residents functional health indicators and detects changes from norms.

Passive monitoring technology can not only alert staff when an incident has occurred – it can alert staff when a resident’s health indicators say the senior is at an increased risk of falling, or developing pressure ulcers for those less ambulatory. Furthermore, the technology non-invasively monitors some the key functional vital signs of residents and can provide early illness detection when combined with all other functional health indicators being monitored..

This is called passive (or ambient) monitoring because:

  • Staff do not need to actively monitor the data from the sensors. Instead, they are alerted when a resident is at risk or is in need of assistance.
  • The technology is discrete and respects residents privacy so that residents don’t feel as if they are in a device-filled hospital room or that they are being “watched”.
  • Unlike resident-activated call systems designed to call staff in emergencies, passive monitoring technology does not require any resident participation or activation.

All these traits of passive monitoring are what make it superior to earlier forms of remote monitoring for senior care facilities.

Staff can focus on their core caregiving duties instead of monitoring feeds, and they can be confident that residents are safe as they go about these duties. Unlike other remote monitoring technologies discussed, they will be notified should a resident show warning signs of an impending adverse event. And they don’t need to rely on resident activated tools (which are useless when a resident is incapacitated) to know when a resident needs immediate assistance.

What’s more, residents and their families see advanced passive monitoring as a desirable amenity, as it takes resident safety to the next level while at the same time respecting seniors privacy and dignity, while affording families the peace of mind of transparent visibility into their loved ones health and care.

Does your community use remote monitoring technologies? If so, is it a passive or non-passive system? What other questions about the nomenclature of senior living technology do you have? Share your comments and questions below.

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