Ever since Medicare began covering home health care services back in 1965, the number of families providing care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member has grown exponentially. Studies indicate that there are now over 65 million individuals in the U.S. providing care for loved ones. Fortunately, the adoption of Internet of Things technology is transforming how in-home care is provided, offering significant improvements for the individuals requiring care, the families arranging the care, as well as the companies providing the care.
Connected Data Provides More Autonomy
In the past, individuals needing care often found themselves confined to rehabilitation centers or nursing homes. They might not lack physical strength or mental acuity, but their loved ones don't want them living at home by themselves.
However, connected devices, sensors and the data they provide offer solutions that allow individuals to maintain their autonomous lives with a much smaller risk. For instance, a wearable device can monitor an individual's respiration, heart rate, and even blood pressure. If a vital sign drifts out of "normal" territory, the device alerts a loved one, neighbor, or health care provider who can respond.
"Monitoring of seniors’ health in the home setting can enable the early detection of problems, promote proactive interventions by health care providers and minimize hospital and long-term care costs.”
Dr. David Rhew, Samsung Chief Medical Officer
Mobile Technology Enables Remote Care
Consumers can already initiate video chats with colleagues and friends, conduct remote interviews with potential employers, and refill prescriptions online. However, mobile technology has also created an opportunity to revolutionize the healthcare industry.
In an article for Wired magazine, staff writer Issie Lapowsky reveals that the future of personalized health care lies in remote doctor visits. Patients can connect with providers via their smartphones and tablets for diagnoses, advice, and even prescriptions.
Aptly called "telemedicine," remote health care eliminates the need to drive to a doctor's office and enables the provider to see more patients in a given day. Lapowsky further elaborates that telemedicine and IoT will eventually enable doctors to better keep track of patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer, via remote monitoring.
Additionally, telemedicine and mobile technology provide healthcare solutions for people who live in rural areas. Without a physician nearby, those consumers might otherwise neglect important (and even life-saving) procedures and checkups.
Remote Monitoring Offers Safety and Peace of Mind
Often real-time health monitoring or 24/7 care aren't the largest concerns for families and loved ones. Many families are primarily concerned with a perceived lack of safety and security—a fear that something could happen to loved ones when no one is around to help.
Until recently, this required a caregiver to be physically in the residence with the individual needing assistance, which is not ideal for individuals who want some level of autonomy and privacy. Overnight care can also be expensive, especially with new regulations requiring caregivers to be paid an overnight / "sleep time" rate equal to the daytime rate.
Affordable off-the-shelf home security/monitoring systems solutions and Internet of Things platforms are allowing home care companies to easily implement solutions that allow remote caregivers to be notified in real time of any incidents. This scenario supports the individuals' and families' desire for autonomy while offering security and peace of mind.
Home Care Company Enhances Customers’ Experience With IoT Solution
Cincinnati-based home care company Total Homecare Solutions (THS) is taking advantage of IoT technology to balance the autonomy customers want with the security they need at a cost they can afford. Using an off-the-shelf Visonic wireless home security system modified with with a simple ESP8266 NodeMCU microprocesser, sensors placed in areas including doors, windows, and mattresses stream data to Losant's IoT platform.
THS installed the solution in residences in a multi-unit apartment. THS used Losant's Twilio integration to easily build a complex call tree to notify an on-site supervisor who can respond in minutes. Monitoring remotely versus in person greatly reduces the cost of care for THS. More importantly - it allows greater privacy and autonomy for individuals. Simple dashboards and reporting give the individual’s family peace of mind that loved ones are safe and well cared for.
Future of Home Care Technology
Though numerous smart solutions exist for home health care, the declining cost of microprocessors, the growing number of connected devices, and the rapidly expanding volumes of data streaming from them are creating numerous opportunities for improvements in the quality of care as well as reducing the cost of care. With the growing number of individuals and families turning to home care as a solution, this trend of utilizing sensors and real-time data greatly helps these people as well as the general public as the overall cost of health care impacts us all.
Do you see other ways IoT is impacting home health care? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Dialogue is always welcome and appreciated!