Information technology can ensure a real time flow of data between care recipients and providers and make administration, record keeping and reporting more efficient. Remote monitoring systems have reduced the level of care required by elderly dependents, alerting providers when intervention is necessary and enabling many people to be treated at home or at local centers rather than in hospitals. This raises capacity, brings substantial savings and gives people greater independence. In Finland, voice systems linking nursing home patients to caregivers have had a major impact on productivity.
Ninie Wang, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Pinetree Senior Care Services, China
Health monitors – worn externally or as implants – can communicate with wireless networks and are especially useful for people with cognitive and physical disabilities; health professionals can monitor vital functions and detect emergency conditions and developing diseases at an early stage. Small accelerometers, for example, can show when a patient falls, using GPS (global positioning system) to guide health professionals to the location for treatment.
Sophisticated data analysis enables more accurate case identification and risk assessment, while some home and community care service providers use mobile technology to communicate with employees traveling between clients’ homes, as well as to track productivity.
Despite the huge potential gains, long term care providers have been slow to adopt new technology, partly due to the continued availability of low-cost labor. They are also deterred by the high costs of installing equipment and the need to centralize often fragmented networks of care homes. Residential or nursing homes are also concerned with how remote communications can lead to less human contact and greater loneliness and isolation. Technology use should therefore still maintain a reasonable level of personal interaction.
Richard Humphries, Senior Fellow, The King’s Fund, UK