Hospital readmissions are a chronic challenge in senior care. One in five Medicare beneficiaries ends up back in the hospital within a month of discharge at an annual cost of $17 billion.

Advanced technologies can help turn the tide for senior care providers in reducing readmissions, creating efficiencies throughout the care cycle, and delivering better care – anytime, anywhere.

Electronic health records

The technology engine for revolutionizing senior care is the electronic health record – a single computerized version of an individual’s health data and personal information. Equipped with tablets or laptops, care teams today can access the EHR at the point of care to make the best medical decisions, avert medication mistakes and prevent hospital readmissions. EHRs also have the potential to become hubs for coordinating interactions among hospitals, post-acute care providers, payers and other key players in healthcare delivery.

Remote monitoring technology

Remote patient monitoring technologies keep a close watch on resident conditions and can derail impending health episodes and emergency hospitalizations. Leading RPM programs offer “instant-on” tablets and integrated Bluetooth wireless devices that help in navigating complex illnesses. Individuals connect with virtual care teams for one-touch videoconferencing, biometric data sharing and ongoing education, coaching and reminders.

Another innovation is contact-free continuous monitoring. These programs transmit real-time data on heart and breathing rates, along with movement levels, through a sensor placed under the resident’s mattress. Care teams proactively can identify health changes and adjust treatment plans as needed.

Predictive data analytics

Senior living and post-acute providers progressively are using predictive analytics for decision support in determining the best course of action for each senior in their care. With these data, they can identify rising-risk and at-risk residents, triage those who need early intervention and reduce preventable hospitalizations. Data from populations of older adults, such as those with diabetes or congestive heart failure, can be aggregated to determine collective patterns and develop best care practices.

Smart wearables

A leading cause of hospital admissions, readmissions, and injury-related death is falls – experienced by half of seniors aged 80 or more years. Wearables, with sensors that detect falls and alert care teams, are an essential tool in fall prevention. Other senior safety systems include smart algorithms that establish a senior’s routine activities, pinpoint any changes and provide emergency alarms to caregivers.

Medication reminders

Older adults forgetting to take their medication, or taking their medication incorrectly, is a prime culprit in return trips to the hospital. Today’s pill dispensers increasingly are equipped with timers and alerts and can communicate with computers and smartphones, helping residents and caregivers avoid incorrect medication use. Also, an array of senior health apps provide medication reminders and prevent dosing errors.

Senior empowerment

The more seniors understand their health challenges, the more empowered they are to take charge of their health and stay away from the hospital. The internet is central to ongoing education, providing a forum for researching conditions, communicating with healthcare providers and accessing patient networks. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of adults aged 65 or more years are online today, 40% own a smartphone and 32% have a tablet.

Internet use also can reduce senior loneliness, a condition experienced by 40% of older Americans and inextricably linked to declining health. Through email, social media and video chat services, seniors are warding off isolation and staying connected to those who care.

Into the future

Thanks to technology’s explosive growth over the past two decades, senior care continues to improve dramatically. For providers who can offer these life- and health-supporting technologies across their enterprises, the opportunities are profound and there for the taking: improved health outcomes, engaging seniors and loved ones in being partners in their own care, and all with the end goal of curbing the cost-and-health-effect of readmissions.

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