We don’t need a crystal ball to see into the future. An array of predictive technologies can help communities manage issues ranging from medication supplies to COVID outbreaks and falls. These solutions collect and transmit information in seconds to administration, associates, residents, and families, so preventative action can be taken.
Some of these technologies, especially smart-home features and wristbands that monitor health and behavior, are familiar and will be expected by incoming generations of residents. Data from market research firm Parks Associates shows that people in their 50s prioritize smart-home safety features, while those over 70 would like technology with connected health features.
Those priorities are met by well-designed technologies that serve residents, staff, and providers in mutually beneficial ways.
Ambient tech types
The best resident-monitoring technology is designed to augment human observation rather than replace it. For instance, AI-enabled cameras and 4-D imaging can spot unusual activity in resident living spaces. These types of technology operate unobtrusively in the background and alert staff if an anomaly is detected. Such technologies have the benefit of providing an additional layer of protection without requiring more time from staff members.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3 million older adults are taken to emergency rooms each year because of fall-related injuries. Falls are the top cause of injuries and injury-related deaths in adults 65 and older.
Since care partners can’t be with all residents at every moment of the day, monitoring technologies that are designed to detect and report falls can have a big impact on resident safety. Data gathered by cameras and sensors can be used to predict the likelihood of falls in the near future and allow staff to take preventative measures.
Prediction and privacy
The Vayyar Care system, which uses 4D imaging to monitor a resident’s living space without the use of cameras or wearable devices, is designed to ensure dignity, privacy, and independence in senior living. The system collects data about a resident’s activity and well-being, including time at rest, bathroom visits, nocturnal roaming, and falls.
No resident actions are required. If a fall is detected – even a minor one that might otherwise go unreported – the system sends an alert to designated caregivers.
“The rich data gathered by our sensors not only supports fall management strategies, but also sheds new light on overall health and well-being,” says Marc McGrann, U.S. director of business development at Vayyar. “For example, frequent bathroom visits are often symptomatic of medical conditions such as UTIs, while residents who spend longer than usual in their rooms or in bed may be experiencing reduced mobility or be at risk of loneliness or depression.”
If a person is getting up more often during the night, lack of sleep also makes them more likely to fall the next day. Far more reliable than floor mats, Vayyar Care’s rich data reveals this heightened risk.
Coming up later this year is an “Imminent Bed Exits” feature that notifies staff if a high-risk resident sits up in bed, Vayyar reports. This has great potential to help residents avoid injury.
Smart room controls
Smart-home technologies can also be used to relay predictive data to community administrators. Tech company Enseo offers a senior living solution that combines entertainment, smart room controls, and a reporting feature. Residents use the Enseo television remote to adjust the lighting, temperature, and window shades in their room or apartment. Enseo handles the television and Wi-Fi service for the community and can also add entertainment content to the programming.
“It provides a measure of independence and dignity for residents to be able to control the comfort of their space from the safety of a seated position if they aren’t as mobile,” says Kris Singleton, president and CIO of Enseo.
For residents with balance and mobility issues, using the smart home controls can help prevent falls. Since television remotes are already familiar technology for most older adults, there isn’t much of a learning curve to start using it.
On the prediction front, the Enseo reporting feature can send daily or hourly reports and will issue alerts if a resident is keeping the temperature very high or low, for example. That information can be used to detect or predict a health issue such as a fever or poor circulation. Providers can also use it to determine the most popular entertainment channels among residents.
Atria Newport Beach uses the Enseo system in its independent and assisted living neighborhoods; it was integrated into the community before it opened, in early 2021. Dori Redman, assistant executive director at the community, finds it especially helpful for assisted living residents and for those in independent living who are recovering from surgery. “Having the remote control right at their fingertips has been huge,” she says.
Another predictive technology in place at Atria Newport Beach is CarePredict, a monitoring solution that uses a wrist wearable, called Tempo.
The device functions as an electronic door key, emergency call button, two-way radio, watch, location tracker, and health sensor. It provides physiological as well as behavioral data to present a full picture of the wearer’s well-being. The scope of information provides insights into whether a person is getting healthier, less healthy or staying the same. “That’s where the ‘predict’ comes into the CarePredict name,” Redman says.
Residents are encouraged to wear their Tempo 24/7. Staff and visitors also wear them for location tracking, which helps to normalize the device for residents.
During the first two weeks, it’s especially important for residents to wear the device continuously—this establishes a baseline for prediction and spotting anomalies. “After 14 days it knows the tempo of the person’s life,” says Satish Movva, founder and CEO of CarePredict.
The Tempo wrist band is worn on the dominant arm, so it can more accurately track activities such as eating. To make it more likely to stay on the dominant arm, it was designed without a screen.
The CarePredict team used data from its research to build algorithms that indicate specific changes that correlate to a decline in health. They are adding physiological measurements, which will augment the behavioral measurements to show a more complete picture of a person’s well-being.
“Both these things together make up what is called a digital biomarker, and digital biomarkers are proven to be predictive for declines in health,” Movva says.
Since care associates wear Tempo as well, it can track how much staff time a resident is consuming. That information can predict the need to move a resident to a different level of care.
The tracking feature enabled CarePredict to add digital contact tracing during the pandemic. It lists all contacts and secondary contacts in seconds and shows the areas the person visited in the building.
“In a couple of seconds, you know everything you need to know and exactly who to isolate,” Movva says. The contact tracing feature won an Argentum Best of the Best award in 2021.
Tracking medication supplies
During potential disruptors such as natural disasters and supply chain issues, maintaining medication supplies becomes critical.
To address this, Guardian Pharmacy uses communication among its network of nationwide pharmacies supported by a corporate office in Atlanta. As soon as staff at a pharmacy are aware of a large-scale emergency in their area, they begin contacting their client communities to find out their disaster plan and medication supply status. If an evacuation is taking place, the pharmacy will coordinate with other pharmacies to provide what community residents will need at the target destination.
If an event such as a hurricane is predicted early enough, Guardian will send an extra week or two of medications to communities that receive scheduled deliveries. For those that order medications on an as-needed basis, Guardian will call in advance and ask them to check their supplies and get any needed prescriptions.
Guardian’s network of regional pharmacies combined with the support center are the keys to its effectiveness in emergencies. “We all pull together and make sure that our residents and the communities they reside in are taken care of,” says Khristy McClelland, president of Guardian Pharmacy of Jacksonville.
Back it up, please
A best practice that McClelland advises for communities: Print out or make a PDF of medication records during emergencies if there’s a chance of losing access to the electronic health records (EHR) system.
Software provider Medtelligent offers a solution called ALIS that makes it easier for communities to back up their records in an emergency. It simplifies bulk printing or backup of information and doesn’t require Wi-Fi to operate.
Managing medications and refills, sending out reminders to renew staff CPR certificates, and tracking vaccinations are other preparedness checklist tasks—and ALIS offers these features and more. “It’s really trying to streamline the community’s processes and save staff time and nurse time,” says Trisha Cole, Medtelligent’s COO and general counsel.
A cloud-based system is a better bet for use during evacuations, Medtelligent says. Nurses can access ALIS on their mobile phones via 3G or 4G to make medication refill requests.
The ALIS COVID-19 dashboard tracks vital signs, vaccination status, test results, and more. It indicates which patients might need to be quarantined and sends alerts that can avert a major outbreak.
“Having all the clinical information in one place about a resident is one of the keys to risk management,” Cole says.
With the plethora of technologies in use in senior living communities, residents and staff can find it unwieldy to use separate interfaces to access all of them. “Umbrella” technologies give communities a way to access all their technologies through one solution.
K4Community was designed by K4Connect to unite all the different technologies in a community and make them accessible through one solution. It can be accessed through iOS, Android, the web, voice technology, TV, and digital signage. It has features for residents, staff, and operators, but is primarily aimed at serving residents.
“We take all of these great consumer technologies and bring them together in a single system,” says Scott Moody, CEO of K4Connect. All of a community’s existing technologies, including standalone systems, can be used through the K4Community interface.
The Resident Check-In feature unobtrusively performs resident checks via a resident’s use of smart home devices or other connected features. Residents don’t have to take any special action, and staff can view the reports on their phones or desktop. Team associates will receive an alert if a resident hasn’t shown any activity during the check-in window.
This reduces the need for staff to perform active check-ins. “The only way to bridge the gap between the number of older adults and the reduced number of caregivers in the world is through technology,” Moody says.
Residents ready to interact
Viamonte Walnut Creek, a Sequoia Living community in the San Francisco Bay Area, uses the K4Community Plus app for its residents. The community has a strong and intentional tech focus.
“We use K4Community Plus as a hub of information for residents including dining information, life enrichment program information, and the very popular resident directory,” says Kate Douglas, director of life enrichment at Viamonte.
The community has a group of tech-savvy residents who meet regularly, interact with the K4Connect team, and teach other residents how to use the system. “The residents have been instrumental in supporting the tech,” says Douglas.
That should be good news to Moody, who took pains to ensure the system would fit the needs of older adults. “We as developers, designers, and user interface designers have to put ourselves in the shoes of those we serve,” he says. “What a 25-year-old understands and values is different from what an 85-year-old will understand and value.”
He points out the ubiquity of the phone handset icon on smartphones. Most adults immediately recognize that it means “telephone,” but younger adults and teens often have no idea what it represents.
Those who create technology must continually adapt to each generation of users, he says, just as communities that want to remain competitive should always be looking ahead to try to predict what features the next wave of residents will want.