The Technology for Seniors That is Reducing Preventable Hospitalizations

Within the senior housing industry, few events are as frustrating as the preventable hospitalization. For the clinical director doing all she can to sustain resident wellness, it is discouraging to see a senior go to the hospital for a condition or event that could have been prevented.

The number of such incidents runs high. One survey of North American nurses found that a wide majority believe that nearly half of senior hospitalizations can be prevented. And the outcomes are serious: Seniors who have been hospitalized struggle to get back into their routine; they experience more serious health declines, along with erosion in functionality.

If there’s an upside to all this for senior housing clinical directors, it’s that preventable hospitalizations are, well, preventable. Thanks to present-day technologies, it is more possible than ever to keep in check many of the most common illnesses and injuries that can lead to hospitalization.

Passive health monitoring, in particular, smart solutions powered by artificial intelligence can yield just such results.

In many (if not most) cases seniors experience preventable hospitalization due to falls. In fact, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according toThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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.

Passive health monitoring technology offers senior housing directors a way to stem this tragic tide. By continuously monitoring a myriad of fall risk indicators via passive, environmentally embedded sensors, then using the amassed data to automatically calculate a fall risk that is far more accurate than manual testing methods, today’s senior care technology can alert caregivers when someone enters an elevated or high risk status, allowing them to take preventative actions to prevent future falls. In fact, today’s senior technology solutions can go so far as to alert staff when a resident at high risk of falling attempts to get out of bed (prior to them successfully doing so) so that caregivers can provide the resident hands-on assistance if needed.

In the realm of preventable hospitalization, another driving factor has to do with seniors’ ability and willingness to follow doctors’ orders. The problem is an endemic one – across the entire population, some 60 percent of individuals don’t follow doctors’ orders when it comes to taking prescriptions.

The problem may be worse among seniors who can be more forgetful, and those who may be tasked with keeping track of a greater number of conditions. It’s easy to lose track – yet by ignoring their physicians, seniors run the risk of allowing conditions to arise that might otherwise be prevented.

Here again passive monitoring can be a key to improving the situation. Using an array of sensors embedded throughout a residence and paired with smart software, senior technology solutions like passive health monitoring can track respiratory, circulatory, cardiac, and other functional vital signs. This allows the technology to detect early signs of illness and notify caregivers so proactive measures can be taken to reduce hospitalizations.

While preventable hospitalizations are a major worry among clinical directors eager to deliver the best possible care and comfort to their senior residents, new technologies such as passive health monitoring make it possible to significantly reduce the likelihood of such events.

In working to prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, what have you found to be most effective? Have you investigated emerging technologies that might help drive success?

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