Preventive Care with Passive Health Monitoring

By their nature, traditional nurse call systems are reactive. Not only do they only respond to an incident that has already occurred, these systems require residents to take specific action during a crisis (when their abilities might be diminished).

Monitoring via environmentally embedded sensors takes the notion of resident care, safety, and caregiver alerts to a whole new level. In passive health monitoring, AI is employed to gather and analyze information on a range of health indicators. Residents do not need to activate the systems. Staff can be entirely hands-off until an alert is registered. Just as information is collected automatically, AI software uses it to continuously create a dynamic picture of a resident’s vital information, analyzing data over time in order to learn the patterns indicative of wellness and those that may signify potential danger.

Given the powerful potential of this technology, there are many benefits to the resident, staff, family, and operators. However, the biggest win may very well be better clinical outcomes. With its potential for preventive care, passive monitoring offers the possibility of keeping residents out of the hospital and helping them to remain independent in their residences for longer.

Falls rank extremely high as a threat to seniors’ health and independence. In fact, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ramifications go beyond health and wellness, hitting the bottom line for many providers. The dollar cost of falls suggests the scope of the problem: In 2013 medical expenses related to fall injuries for people 65 and older was $34 billion.

Historically, caregivers have tried to anticipate fall risks through scores on the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test—an imprecise manual assessment in which the time it takes for a resident to sit, walk, turn, walk, and sit back down is measured. The TUG assessment can give only a rough approximation of a resident’s capacity for mobility and the likelihood of falls. Likewise, it can measure only a single moment in time—one in which residents are incentivized to present their absolute best mobility prospect.

Passive monitoring works very differently. First, it is continuous, building a picture of a resident’s main fall indicators—gait, walk speed, stride length, balance—over time. Second, when paired with AI processing capabilities, this sensor data can be used by the monitoring system to learn the resident’s “norm” not just at a particular instant, but also over a broad span of time and in comparison to a larger population to anticipate resident behaviors and actions.

Senior living may be especially well situated to reap the benefits of AI. In the realm of falls, for example, AI can process the volumes of data captured by passive monitoring in order to create a system that is by nature preventative. A pull cord or pendant can alert caregivers once a fall has occurred, but these traditional alert systems cannot notify staff when a fall incident may be impending.

The benefit is clear: Managing a fall before it happens is far more effective than to remediate after the fact.

But falls are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to passive monitoring and preventive care. The range of potential negative health events can be broad amongst seniors, and today’s passive monitoring systems can deliver preventive functionality to deter a range of those negative events.

Going a step further, passive monitoring can allow for the preventative care of a range of serious and even deadly maladies. By keeping a constant watch on functional vital signs and processing these through artificial intelligence, a modern system may be able to alert caregivers to the signs of stroke, heart disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and other conditions before a situation escalates to a dangerous status.

One ancillary benefit not to be overlooked is the peace of mind that passive health monitoring powered by artificial intelligence may give to residents and their family members. Once they understand the proactive and preventative nature of a passive health monitoring system, family members may feel reassured as to the level of care their loved one is receiving.

That’s significant: It isn’t always easy for an operator to demonstrate to family members the depth of care being delivered. The demonstrable functions of a passive health monitoring system may go a long way toward offering reassurance.

Preventative care drives a multitude of improved clinical outcomes and helps reassure loved ones. To learn more about passive health monitoring technologies, download Choosing Remote Monitoring Technology: What Every Senior Living Organization Must Know.

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