Reading the recent Top 10 Trends in Senior Housing for 2014, I was hit with the realization that the rapid evolution of remote monitoring has positioned the technology to neatly address the majority of Senior Housing News’ predictions for the coming year. The reason is simple: remote monitoring enables seniors to safely live as independently as possible, for longer, in lower acuity settings.
Today’s remote monitoring systems involve the combination of wearable sensors as well as motion and contact sensors placed throughout the home. These sensors, coupled with biometric vital signs and wellness monitoring devices (e.g. pulse oximeter, glucometer) continuously monitor “activities of daily living” (ADLs), generating wireless signals of activity that is securely and seamlessly sent to a cloud-based server. The data is then reviewed to detect and predict usual activities that could represent a risk to the patient’s health. When appropriate, caregivers are alerted through call, text, or email.
This passive technology helps reduce costs, improve quality of care and also provides communities with the flexibility necessary to adapt to the changing acuity needs of aging residents. Remote monitoring also addresses myriad other issues confronting senior living providers, many of which were highlighted as the top 10 trends for 2014 in senior housing.
80 is the New 65: With the 85+ population projected to hit 14.1 million by 2040, demand for technology and services that enable seniors to safely live independently wherever they call home will skyrocket. Remote monitoring technology accomplishes this by continuously measuring key wellness indicators and ADLs, alerting caregivers to potential emergent health conditions. Some senior housing communities are finding that these technologies allow residents to stay in their preferred housing option for six to 12 months longer, on average, because their clinical needs are proactively monitored for change.
Longevity and Retirement Savings: Longer life spans combined with rising expenses have created uncertainty among seniors regarding the adequacy of their retirement savings. As a result, they are seeking the most cost-effective living alternatives, such as “independent living” communities (e.g. housing with services) and even their own homes. When outfitted with remote monitoring systems bundled with innovative services, these alternatives provide the appropriate levels of care at a much lower cost. Based on the 2012 MetLife “Survey of Long-Term Care Costs,” the average senior can save $18,500 to $57,000 per year by remaining in his or her home with remote monitoring.
Margins & Missions: For-profit and not-for-profit senior living communities have the same mission—to provide the best senior care possible—and similar financial structures to achieve it. Remote monitoring helps both achieve that mission and overcome the occupancy challenges associated with a rapidly aging senior population. It creates a safe environment for aging in place, and ensures that those who need greater care have more options available. In fact, a recent economic analysis conducted on behalf of the Healthsense Care Alliance (HCA) found that remote monitoring generates a threefold increase in monthly service revenue, in part by reducing the number of moves to higher-acuity care settings by as much as 27 percent and increasing the services delivered in-place.
Technology: Data—and the technology to capture, analyze and share it—has become critical to meeting individual and regulatory demands in today’s healthcare environment. Remote monitoring passively collects and processes the granular data senior living communities need to evaluate outcomes and implement evidence-based care utilizing accepted best practices. Data also enables organizations to prepare for future risk/gain sharing partnerships with healthcare payers and providers.
Financing: The rapidly expanding senior population has many owner-operators seeking to expand the capacity of their higher acuity settings. Remote monitoring helps maximize existing buildings’ occupancy, revenue and profit by enabling services to be scaled to a resident’s evolving needs. This eliminates occupancy issues that arise when residents move to higher acuity care levels.
Real Estate: Flexibility is emerging as a key selling point when it comes to attracting the growing number of seniors who are ready to sell their homes and move to a senior housing community. They expect their chosen community to keep pace with changing times and needs, and to provide a highly customizable living experience. Remote monitoring delivers upon those expectations with scalable functionality to meet evolving needs.
Media Influence & Senior Housing: ProPublica’s Frontline story was likely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the news media’s scrutiny of the senior living industry. Communities that have deployed remote monitoring systems can offset that negative impression with demonstrable improvements in quality of care and quality of life. It shows families that the senior housing provider is serious about and committed to protecting the health and wellness of its residents by providing a safe and secure environment.
Staffing & Workforce Needs: The growing number of seniors with higher acuity needs is generating a labor challenge for senior living communities. Remote monitoring increases productivity, enabling smaller staffs to accomplish more without sacrificing quality of care. This was also demonstrated within the recent HCA study, which found that remote monitoring offsets the equivalent of one full-time employee per day (40 hours per week) in time saved on room checks alone.
Business Brand & History Matter: Finally, when it comes to positioning themselves as trusted care providers with brands known for excellence and innovation, senior living communities can tout their adoption of remote monitoring and innovative services as a differentiator. It demonstrates to residents, caregivers and loved ones that the community is willing to make the investments necessary to provide a safe environment where seniors can live as independently as possible. These are just nine reasons why remote monitoring has emerged as a key player in an evolving aging services industry. It has matured far beyond reactive safety monitoring and is now the foundation of a proactive and interactive approach to wellness management. The end result is more informed and timely care decisions that reduce costs and slow the progression of seniors through the care continuum.