26 Jan 6 Companies and Technologies Changing Home Care for the Better
Technology and innovation continue to impact our lives at an unprecedented rate. While mobile devices, big data, analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud-based services permit almost every age group to use technology for better health, possibly no generation is poised to benefit more than seniors.
That’s good news, considering people aged 65 and older — which accounted for about 49.2 million people or 15.7% of the population in 2016– will represent more than one-fifth of the country’s population by 2060, reaching 98 million people. While technology has greatly impacted all of our lives, many innovations are taking place to create disruption and advancement for both home care recipients along with the healthcare system as a whole.
Below are 6 technologies and companies that are changing home care for the better.
Ridesharing: Access to transportation remains a challenge for many older Americans, whether its meeting friends for coffee, running errands, or making it to medical appointments. Health systems are partnering more and more with rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber to bridge the gap that exists for seniors and the disabled to make it easier to facilitate transportation.
There is the medical component which makes getting to doctor’s appointments easier, helping to overcome challenges for at-home seniors that need adequate medical access. Difficulty with transportation is linked to as many as 30 percent of elders missing medical appointments. The second piece, not to be overlooked, is the socialization component. By making the community more accessible, on-demand rides can help reduce social isolation and increase quality of life. In most markets, both Lyft and Uber offer wheelchair accessible rides right through their apps, which are a boon to those with accessibility needs.
Telemedicine: Telemedicine has been all the rage and an emerging technology for several years now. Doctor On Demand is one such company helping to spearhead the technology of telehealth to disrupt the healthcare industry. This service is offering primary care virtually to its customers, often with very favorable rates, not to mention the convenience factor.
To demonstrate how seriously major companies are taking telemedicine, Humana teamed up with Doctor On Demand to offer a virtual primary care plan. Walmart has also been expanding its partnership with the company in order to offer telehealth services for its own employees. While telehealth initiatives have been a part of the discussion for years as an emerging technology, expect its adoption to increase as we see more and more major players integrating it into their platforms.
Grandkids On-Demand: Seniors over 65 are one of the fastest-growing age groups in the United States, but they are still an underserved market. Many don’t need assisted living or in-home care, but they do need help with transportation and errands. Most of all, however, the elderly want companionship. Papa, a service that bills itself as “grandkids on-demand,” wants to fill the gap by connecting college students, called Papa Pals, with seniors.
Papa Pals are college students, many of whom are studying nursing, social work or hospitality. Before they are matched with seniors, Papa Pals undergo a background check and a motor vehicle records check and inspection. The company also asks them to complete a personality test. Parker describes the ideal Papa Pal as not only interested in working with seniors for career experience, but also outgoing, empathetic and patient.
Papa is continuing to expand as it gains access to funding. Papa as a service could be great for seniors who need some extra help or “pre-care,” or even as a supplement to current home care needs. Papa is working to expand its partnerships across platforms such as senior living centers as well.
Wearable technology: Wearable technology has been worn by people for several years. They were frequently used by athletes and now more broadly as a way to measure steps taken, sleep patterns, or pulse rates. As wearable technology improves, some health care providers believe that there is an emerging trend to expand the benefits of this technology, especially in a home care environment.
Physicians depend on patients or their caregivers to provide health information during home care. For several reasons, this information is not always as precise as it could be. This could prevent the patient from getting optimal treatments. Wearable technology could help the physician get the clearest picture of their patients health even before they come into the office. The patient also won’t have to try to track and remember all of the captured data as well.
Wearable technologies also help the caregiver provide better support to the patient and would streamline physician communication as well. Fueling the trend towards wearables include devices that are getting smaller, more powerful, and even fashionable. Additionally, technology continues to improve and adoption is increasing across populations.
Challenges that are present in wearable technologies include poor system integration across platforms (a perennial challenge facing just about all interfaces within the healthcare system). There is also a lack of medical guidance on best use of wearables, along with interpretation and benchmarking of an individual’s data, which can be particularly challenging for caregivers who may not have the medical training to adequately interpret the data.
Sensors: Smart homes and smart technology have an increasing presence across devices, appliances, and everyday items in people’s homes. Low costs and the prevalence of goods that now contain sensors and chips are making the home more connected than ever. This technology has the power to give elders back their independence and increase measures of safety for seniors residing in their own home.
GreatCall Healthcare is one such pioneer in the space (recently purchased by Best Buy), which sells mobile devices and support services to help older adults live independently. They rely on capabilities such as predictive analytics for activities of daily living, fall detection technology, and one-touch access to care teams to facilitate independent living. Integrated abilities include medication management and remote monitoring through its smart devices.
With sensors and smart technology, the sky’s the limit in what can be provided and integrated to create a connected and safer world for elders and the disabled in their pursuit of maintaining quality of life within their own homes.
Robots: For an aging America already facing a crisis by means of a caregiver shortage, are robots the answer? Can robots replace caregivers? Will people accept robots into their homes? The reality of robots used in assistance for home care may not be as far-fetched as you might think. The caregiver shortage crisis may also not give us any other choice than to rely on AI to facilitate home care needs for our elderly population.
The technology is already well-advanced, and robots are capable of doing many tasks that caregivers can do now. Cost is a major barrier to implementation. While costs will inevitably come down over time, caretaking is much more than addressing just the physical needs of the patient. We still need a human touch, and the emotional element to providing care is equally as important.
As technology improves, it is reasonable to think that robots will only get more sophisticated, while connecting with patients in ways that we never would have expected. While it probably won’t be implemented overnight, AI and robots will likely increase in presence in home care and healthcare models across America. Unlikely to ever replace caregivers entirely, expect robots to complement and aid in providing some of the caregiving needs to seniors down the road.
In summary, technology and disruption will continue to impact all of healthcare, and the homecare industry is no exception. To be sure, not all promising technologies or companies will live up to the hype or promise of a better future in home care. Several companies that aimed to be the “Uber of home care” failed, demonstrating that the gig economy might not transition as well in the home care setting.
However, many promising technologies are being implemented across the healthcare system in ways that address challenges as diverse as the caregiver crisis to reducing missed medical appointments. Cutting-edge companies and technologies will continue to drive solutions to improve the delivery of care at home, and the best home care agencies will be at the forefront of adopting and advancing these technologies for their patient populations.