Nice to have Today and maybe Need to Have tomorrow.

I recently published an article that was the result of a discussion with Troy Griffiths, the CEO of Vigil Health Solutions, a provider of resident monitoring and emergency call systems and a Senior Housing Forum Partner.  The genesis of that article was an email I received from a reader asking my thoughts on what technologies should be considered when building a new senior community.

That article looked at emergency call systems and wifi.  This article looks at additional technologies:

More Technology

Most of what is included in this list might today be considered in the category of “nice to have” but in the relatively near future will likely become the new standard.

  • Electronic Access Control – Primarily because of initial costs (several hundred dollars per door) electronic door access is rarely seen today.  Costs are coming down and it provides some compelling benefits that include: No rekeying costs, ease of use for seniors and loss control. (Editor’s Note:  This will be the topic of a dedicated article)
  • Wander Management – Wander management is all over the map.  A building might have, at the most basic level, a simple fenced, gated exterior and door contacts that notify staff every time a door opens, or, at the upper range, a very sophisticated and expensive active tracking system.

Troy says that Vigil does offer a RFID wander solution and that in specific situations they can be warranted.  However, generally they encourage communities that are concerned with elopement to look at design and  simple maglock delayed egress door hardware as the right balance between cost, complexity and privacy. 

  • Active Tracking –  There are some systems that offer active tracking and at a high level they have a lot of appeal.  At this point, Troy says that Vigil sees active tracking as something for the relatively distant future for 4 reasons:
    • It is quite expensive
    • Battery life is a huge issue
    • It has the potential to create a false level of complacency in staff
    • Except for dementia residents it has serious privacy tradeoffs (do your AL residents want to be actively tracked?)
  • Electronic Health Records – While required in skilled nursing, the adoption at other levels of care has been spotty.  Even in skilled nursing where it is a necessity full adoption has been painfully slow.  It is a tough thing because it requires a radically different way of doing everything. 

In addition there is a dizzying array of choices including two Senior Housing Forum Partners RealPage and Carvium. Yet for all of that, it provides some real benefits in the areas of liability reduction, accountability, right sizing levels of care and providing referral sources accurate outcome data.

  • Biometric Monitoring –  There are a variety of companies that are looking to monitor resident biometrics and activities.  The idea behind the monitoring is that it will serve as an early warning system that identifies changes in health conditions.  Troy feels it is a great idea but that, at least in a senior living setting, no one has quite figured out how to turn into something practical and useable. 

His personal belief is that this kind of monitoring holds great promise but its time has not yet arrived.  He believes the most likely scenario will include taking advantage of information from fitness trackers like the Nike Fuel band or the Fitbit series of devices and using that data to benefit seniors.

This list is far from exhaustive.  There are companies like OnShift and iTacit, both Senior Housing Forum Partners that are able to radically simplify the ever increasing complexity of managing and scheduling team members.  Check-in for independent living residents is still a challenge that technology can solve.  Staff communication is an area that still has a long way to go and today’s solutions are primitive, clunky and expensive.

Finally, if you are a technology junkie there is a lot to learn at AgeTech West which takes place in Seattle on November 17-18. Troy will be talking about the latest innovations in wearable technology joining other leaders from companies including Microsoft and Google to address how innovation can change the aging experience.

Steve Moran