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After Covid-19, When the Care Recipient is Elsewhere, What’s Next for Technology?

Technology usage has climbed sharply during Covid-19.  Pew Research notes 53% of responders in April consider the Internet as ‘Essential’ although, no surprise, the oldest did not. And Nielsen observed that the pandemic was a catalyst for the rise of tech use for working at home and shopping, among other uses. In addition, telehealth usage has skyrocketed, with virtual doctor visits expected by Forrester Research to top 1 billion by years end. The spike has been attributed to a) the declaration of a state of emergency in March; b) introduction of Medicare/Medicaid coverage matching in-person visits; and c) encouragement from hospitals and medical practitioners.  

A technology transformation is underway, greater than the sum of its parts. First the confusion. One article author cites the growth of digital health but swaps in terms like “remote services” and “virtual consultations.” After decades of pushing the telehealth rock uphill, the market value of individual firms, like Livongo, has skyrocketed. But other categories of usage and their user groups are also coming into focus – consider the multiple examples in senior living during the visitation lockdown. Not just telehealth, but robots for cleaning or engagement technologies to mitigate isolation are ramping up. Up next, more experimentation and usage of what is available today and in-house. Further, the home care and home health companies see the opportunity to boost deployment of technology – and they’re moving aggressively forward – with engagement tools, remote patient monitoring (RPM), analytics and AI, sensors in the home.   

Consider the components of next generation remote technology to deliver care.  As the world settles into a post-pandemic phase, what will matter most for the care of and benefit for older adults? Of course, ramping up access to technology using what’s available today is a good start. Organizations everywhere are rallying to the need to fix or solidify connectivity, whether as part of national policy directive, care delivery, family pressure, staff retention, or maintaining service delivery.  These include senior housing, skilled nursing facilities, home care, home healthcare, or healthcare providers.  What technology considerations will need to be next, moving from a desperate to a more measured pace?

Next generation: What are the dimensions of remote care technology?  After the re-opening and stabilization phase of businesses in 2020 and beyond, delivery organizations will want to do a better job of delivering care in its many forms -- when the care recipient is elsewhere. What will be the priority?  Telehealth demands continued investment -- phone, video, remote patient and/or device monitoring. Along with telehealth, will wearables for health and wellbeing be a priority post Covid-19? What about Voice First engagement technologies – or other tools for caregiver teams and family connection?  And for home care – is there a better way to engage and retain the worker? What changes will be wrought in smart home categories – sensors, robotics, predictive analytics in a post-Covid world? And not least, with the pandemic at some point behind them, how/will senior-focused organizations change their usage of technologies in the coming years?  

[NOTE: This is a first in a series of blog posts about the Future of Remote Care Technology After Covid-19 – a Research Report to be published in Q4] -- thoughts welcome]

Comments

The number one challenge/barrier facing older adults is access to devices, internet, and affordable training to access and learn how to use technology in general and also new technologies. Without proper training, many older adults are already and will continue to be left behind, especially low-income older adults.

The number one challenge is not to affordable access and or training as there is no way for the older-adults to keep up with all that is available or will become available. The number one challenge is that technology and all of its capabilities should seen as a utopia or solution in dealing with aging issues. Men has dealt with aging since the beginning of times, yes, technology gives us helpful tools but they should be at all times be secondary. As a primary tools it can only function for those who are up to speed with it all, but only for those who happen to have grown into technology. The older adult as consumer needs to feel confident and comfortable, not intimidated or controlled by it. Men as a mature individual with life coping experiences which help him/her to make it this far should not become or made incompetent because technology is there with tools that "could help/assist". Unless an older-adult has grown into a certain level of comfort with technology, service or care providers should not make those on the other side of the tech- competency scale feel illiterate or even falling short because of their status. Therefore the number on challenge is to create an aging-in-place environment that is smart and well designed to house all older-adults through ALL phases of the aging process and adapt and accommodate all with or without any technology. Universal design, barrier-free and social-interactive in nature based on people and their relationship to one another and the environment first, technology is just a secondary tool, nothing more. Community and people interaction has been there since the beginning of time, technology is a helper but not a replacement of human to human play.           

Not being able to know if the care plan is in fact being executed as instructed creates frustration in families. Agencies prove what they promise by using a check list sheet or answering a few telephonic questions.  Empowering the caregiver in the home who is one degree of separation from the loved one and typically is adept with a smartphone can be accountable for the care they provide as well as the comfort of knowing a loved one is safe. Check out www.orah.care

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