Jun 18 2020

Why Technology Is Critical to Solving a Work Shortage in Senior Care

Solutions that automate caregiver workflows and enhance their collaboration show promise in improving staff satisfaction and reducing turnover.

A graying population means that more staff than ever will be needed to help care for older adults — both in senior living communities and through home-based services.

Demand for home health aides and personal care aides is anticipated to grow by 36 percent by 2028, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a much faster growth rate compared to the 5 percent average across all occupations.

Senior care already faces big hiring and retention challenges: Surveys of annual turnover rates in the industry range from 40 to 75 percent, costing some organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars just to replace lost employees.

This is why technology-enabled campuses are critical — not only to attract younger, tech-savvy workers but to facilitate tools that can help drive efficiencies in care with fewer employees, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Kathleen Weissberg, education director for Select Rehabilitation, explained at the LeadingAge 2019 conference in San Diego that even the most basic tools and technologies can improve caregiver satisfaction and make a positive impact in a tight labor market.

“If we’re not giving employees what they desire, we’re going to lose them,” Weissberg said.

Adopting Technologies That Save Time and Work

The issue of high staff turnover in senior care calls for automation and timesaving collaboration tools to streamline workflows and improve morale. 

In implementing solutions such as smart speakers and secure mobile devices for communications, technology can positively impact workload management and productivity, giving caregivers more time to provide direct care and enjoy their interactions with residents.

That need inspired Dennis Fontaine to create LifePod, an application built with Amazon Alexa Voice Service and designed to ease staff workloads and promote independence among older adults.

“What this will do in senior living is give the nurses and workers there the opportunity to better use their time,” says Fontaine, of Transcendent Technologies, in a CDW white paper. “It will inform them that Mr. Jones needs help, but Mrs. Smith doesn’t, rather than trying to guess who needs help when.”

Videoconferencing tools are another way to help care teams coordinate care and disseminate information among staff across various locations. The virtual communication format also enables care teams to meet face to face with a patient’s loved ones — a solution that’s proving to be particularly beneficial during the current public health crisis.

Upon the coronavirus’ outbreak in the United States, Catholic Health immediately adopted 20 iPads as a means to enabling virtual nursing home visits and keeping residents’ family members and friends informed of their health and well-being.

“We’re working hard to ease the concerns of family members by providing them with regular updates and giving them the opportunity to stay engaged with their loved ones during this unprecedented situation,” said Tom Gleason, senior vice president for home and community-based care at Catholic Health, in a statement.

DOWNLOAD: Find out how to make the best use of technology when building a 21st- century senior living community.

Utilizing Tools for Remote Patient Monitoring

Advanced technologies that use intelligent, passive sensors, smart wearables and AI-powered analytics can be used to monitor the safety, security, health and wellness of individual residents, helping to relieve the workflow burden for busy caregivers.

Take, for example, proactive resident health and safety monitoring and engagement solutions like the VitalCare platform from VitalTech. The solution can detect falls, enable residents to activate an alarm using their voices, automate the collection of vitals to generate health alerts based on individual chronic conditions and care plans, and passively track the activities of daily living for each individual resident. These technologies combine to recognize when a resident’s normal pattern of behavior and activity changes in a way that could indicate the onset of illness and other health issues, as well as identify an increased risk of falls or potential hospitalizations.

Sensors designed to monitor a patient’s movements are another preventive tool being used across smart rooms in senior care centers. Dr. David Rhew, chief medical officer and vice president of healthcare for Microsoft, spoke positively about the devices’ abilities in a CDW Bring IT On session hosted online earlier this year.

“Motion sensors can detect changes of activity: Has the person been in the bath for five hours or sleeping in a bed for 15 hours?” said Rhew.

As the number of tools grow, metaplatforms are emerging that pull together different features across multiple systems. Aiva Health, a voice-first operating system with investments from Google and Amazon, is one such platform. 

In addition to offering smart-routing workflow and videoconferencing tools, Aiva connects them with systems that handle everything from meal menus and activity calendars to motion sensors, medication compliance and even daily COVID-19 check-ins. The platform uses a robust dashboard to successfully and efficiently manage all of those integrations.

“Senior communities are ecosystems of tools and processes — many of them standalone deployments,” says Sumeet Bhatia, Founder and CEO of Aiva. “To truly improve satisfaction for residents and staff, a technology needs to unify the experience.”

Automated solutions enable care teams to better focus their attention on residents that most need it and proactively respond to potentially serious conditions. These benefits are a welcome development, and they’re necessary right now.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.

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