Technological Advancement in Home Health Care
Home health care was only a small fraction of Medicare’s overall budget prior to the surge in the industry that occurred in the late 1980s. By 1990, home health care was the fastest growing component of the Medicare budget and, by 1997, had grown to $19 billion.
The growth in home health care wasn’t spurred by doctors making more house calls, however. The direct physical care was carried out by nurses, therapists, and home health aides, while doctors worked with the agencies to oversee treatment plans, prescribe medication, and evaluate additional care options. Today, home health technologies are undergoing major changes driven by the latest health innovations, yet the home health care field is cutting down on administrative costs and improving data collection. That translates to savings for Arizona seniors who want to live for as long as they can in their own home by choosing the option for professional home care in Phoenix.
Technology Boom in Home Health
Once home health care became a booming industry, advances in technology quickly followed. From hand-held blood analysis devices to IV infusion technology, medical equipment that was once only used in hospital settings became commonplace in home-care situations. The advancements led to additional technologies and increased not only the capabilities of home health caretakers, it also improved the quality of home-centered care.
Numerous medical innovations have enhanced the industry and led to a higher level of independence and quality of care for patients. These advancements and innovations allowed seniors to have a qualified Phoenix caregiver come to their home, rather than only have a full time skilled nursing facility as a resource.
Here are a few of recent home health technology innovations:
- Mobile technology partners with artificial intelligence to guide patients through therapy treatments at home.
- For Alzheimer’s patients, there is a tool that detects when they are having a difficult time with a specific daily task. The artificial intelligence reacts to emotional cues from the patients, using a microphone and camera equipment installed in the home. It then guides the patient through the task.
- Another technology, called a “tremor spoon,” evaluates patients with Parkinson’s to evaluate and monitor symptoms.
- Barcode scanners can verify the accuracy of medications given.
The “Internet of Things” for Healthcare
This is a term that has become commonplace in a world where wireless internet is the rule, and no longer the exception. “The Internet of Things” means to connect a device to the internet or with other devices. Homes can be controlled remotely via a cell phone, and now medical care can be handled the same way to extend direct patient care outside of a brick-and-mortar hospital, doctor’s office, or nursing facility.
This merging of medical devices with network connectivity has made it possible to monitor patients’ vital signs and other stats remotely. Not only that, but medical devices can now be managed, configured, and tuned remotely as well. Internet connectivity allows for data analytics to be shared with and between medical personnel, allowing for efficient data flow between home health caretakers, physicians, and hospitals.
Easing the Cost and Burden for Family Members
By 2019, the U.S. will see a dramatic shift in the population, with people aged 65 and older outnumbering those 5 years of age and younger, according to an article shared at the National Leadership Forum in 2016, focusing on the future of home-based care. Americans are living longer and, as a result, are dealing with diseases such as diabetes, dementia, and other chronic conditions for longer periods of time. With the cost of nursing homes and assisted living care outpacing inflation over the last decade, more seniors are staying in their homes far beyond what they likely ever expected. Their daily care often falls on nearby relatives to help them with bathing, dressing, grocery shopping, doctors’ appointments, errands, house cleaning, and meals. Many of these relatives are also juggling full-time jobs as well.
With the cost of home health care staying consistent and experiencing very little increase in cost, many seniors are choosing to stay in their homes rather then moving to a nursing home. They can afford the cost of scheduled home health care, which, depending on their diagnosis, may be covered under Medicare or a secondary health policy. Technological advances for vital sign monitoring, weight, and diagnostics have become widely used in home health care, allowing more seniors the opportunity to extend their independent living at home, relieving relative caretakers and creating a safer environment in familiar surroundings.
Ensuring Safety at Home
Smart home technology now offers voice-recognition capabilities, which allows a senior to call for help if they fall or experience a health or safety issue. This is especially helpful for those who have limited mobility, vision problems, or heart issues. In the past, seniors had to rely on a phone. With smart home technology available, if the patient were to fall or encounter an emergency health issue, he or she can call out for help instead of trying to get to a phone or attempt dialing hard-to-see buttons on a cell phone to dispatch emergency assistance.
There are also devices that seniors or the disabled can wear that will detect falls. With the push of a button, these personal alert systems allow the wearer to summon help. Security camera systems allow remote monitoring. The cameras can also detect unusual traffic and patterns that are out of the ordinary. Other technology products send reminders for appointments and other important dates, help find lost objects, and even dispense medications.
Additionally, alarm systems can detect fires, with new innovations that can sense the difference between heat generated by cooking and heat caused by turning on a stove and forgetting about it.
Home Health Technology Ahead
As government-based entities such as Medicaid and Medicare seek lower-cost alternatives for patient care, home health is a viable option, in part due to the technological innovations that provide professional-level, life-saving tools and diagnostic and treatment equipment for home health nurses and aides.
Research for home-based healthcare technology has focused on independent living and finding alternative ways to deal with issues that would have previously forced seniors out of their residences and into nursing homes. From biofeedback systems implemented through smartphones to help Parkinson’s patients with exercises and therapy in the comfort of their home, to using virtual reality to improve mental acuity, the future of technology-based home health care will not only ensure a future for the industry, but possibly help the healthcare industry to evolve into a more patient-centered focus.
For more information on senior home care in Phoenix, or to find a qualified Phoenix caregiver, visit our website for a complete guide to our services.