Many senior living executives have begun to use telehealth and mobile health, or mHealth technology to lower costs and improve care, but some have been hesitant, and for good reason. mHealth uses mobile communication devices such as smartphones and tablet computers and hundreds of software applications for these devices, which can do almost anything imagined for supporting healthcare. When integrating mHealth within senior care, there are many obstacles to overcome, including:
- Privacy & Security
- Infrastructure needs
Changes in Reimbursement
A new bill proposed by a group of bipartisan senators in February might change obstacles related to reimbursement. The Connect for Health Act, indicates that the time has come for telehealth to receive more reimbursement. Of particular importance to senior care, the bill includes measures to expand Medicare reimbursement for remote patient monitoring.
In the senior care setting, remote patient monitoring (RPM)–an aspect of mHealth–has proven to improve health and wellness, increase efficiency of care, lower costs, prevent readmissions, prevent injury, and improve resident satisfaction. RPM is the collection of personal health and medical data from a patient or resident in one location that is then transferred electronically to a nurse, caregiver or physician in a different location for monitoring purposes.
Overcoming Security Concerns
This is an important concern, because it can affect not only a resident’s life, but also the very livelihood of a business. Violations of the HIPAA rule can lead to hefty federal penalties, bad press and overall community distrust. No organization wants to face that. For seniors, it can lead to identity theft, medication and insurance theft, information ransoming and ad scam campaigns. To use mHealth within a senior home – even on a senior’s own personal electronic device—brings up fears, and those fears must be dealt with. One of the best bets for solving this issue is to hire privacy and security consultants to survey the use of technology for compliance, as well as trainers to teach seniors what their personal responsibilities are for keeping their smartphones, iPads and online accounts secure.
Meeting mHealth Infrastructure Needs
Infrastructure is essential for using telehealth. To sustain a good mHealth program, senior living homes will need the right internet connection, with proper bandwidth; the right software and hardware; and the right people to run it. Most senior living organizations cannot afford and/or do not have their own IT departments, and so must hire outside experts to fulfill this critical role.
Many senior living communities are hesitant to use mHealth because they know their current IT infrastructure is inadequate to sustain the advanced technology. This can only lead to frustration. Building out an infrastructure that is sometimes far more robust than what is currently needed is essential. To take it a step further, senior living operators should not build their infrastructure for what is wanted now, but for the IT of the future that has not yet been developed. A scalable infrastructure is an essential part of planning for the future and a way to avoid the doubts that plague senior homes and keep them from embracing the use of mHealth.
Don’t Wait to Get on Board
The vast majority of seniors have smartphones, tablets and computers – or all three. They use apps to take charge of their own health, they are actively engaged on social media, and they show an appreciation for the advances in technology that are playing a role in their own quality of life. Now is the right time for reluctant senior living communities to ask why they aren’t getting on board with mHealth.
How have you begun using remote monitoring or mHealth to improve quality of life at your community?