A honest look at the state and value of sensor technology in Senior Living

A few weeks ago I published an article titled  “The Perfect Technology Solution for Senior Living”   based on a conversation I had with Steve Smith the VP of Technology for Vigil Health Solutions about his “high level” view of technology in the Senior Housing Space.  This is a continuation of a look at technology and senior housing. Over the last few years we have seen a number of companies playing with sensor technology including Vigil Health Solutions.  Here is what Steve had to say about the current state of sensor technology in senior housing.

Sensor Technology and Vigil

Currently Vigil is using sensor technology in three areas:

1.  Fall Detection – This is in the form of pads that residents sit on and if they fall out of the chair resident care givers will be immediately notified via silent pages.

2.  Bed Exit Detection –  In most cases this sensor technology is used in conjunction with the comprehensive Vigil Dementia System, but can be used as an early warning of night time elopement and in a number of other ways.

3.  Motion Detection –  Vigils uses motion sensor detection only as a part of the complete Vigil Dementia System.  The reason for this is that in their early years they discovered that stand along motion detectors would generate so many false positive calls that before long care givers would either ignore them or turn them off.  The end result being more cost to the senior community and no benefit to the residents or staff. The Vigil Dementia system includes software that evaluates the constellation of signals coming from the sensors and is able to largely eliminate false positive calls.

Motion Detection is cool . . . but

I asked Steve about motion detection which seems like it should be the next cool innovative thing.  Steve is seeing a bunch of exploration in the motion sensor space including things like motion detection, medication monitoring, toilet flushes and activity levels (along with weight, respiration, heart rate) and the Holy Grail, predicting and preventing falls. Here is the challenge today – it is possible to monitor a lot of these things, but it adds complexity and cost to the operation of a senior housing community.  It also generates data . . . lots of data and from Steve’s perspective it is not so clear what you can actually do with that data.  In other words, how does it benefit either the residents or the community? Particularly as you look at biometric monitoring, it would seem the best use of the data would be to identify trends.  Then becomes the question of who determines the trend thresholds and what happens with those thresholds are breached. Convincing a senior housing community that changing a battery for every resident once a year is worth the investment requires a real payoff in resident safety or satisfaction.  Small portable pendants can show this return on resident safety and self determination.  A similar time investment (15 minutes per resident per year) in looking at data trends has to pay off, and not in “false alarms” or “but we missed the signs” type of ways – how can you prove that it saved one hospitalization?   Or improved a resident’s life enough that they would be glad to pay for an additional 15 minutes of care a year?  And how do you keep staff trained in the best practices that are required to keep this working? Are you using or have you used motion senior technology?  How are you using it?  How much value has it added to your community? The next article in the series will take a look at fall detection and prevention (which are very different).

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