In the future, bolder ideas could become a part of the landscape to address staffing shortages that have challenged the senior care industry since long before the pandemic.
“Think about robots to manage social isolation, personal care activities and feeding — elements perhaps we would not have thought about previously,” Martin said. The use of robots to clean rooms with UV light is another likely scenario.
Sensors that employ artificial intelligence and machine vision to monitor the gait and movement patterns of older adults also are promising. By analyzing this data, the tools could help caregivers and loved ones act to reduce the chances of a resident falling.
Similar remote technology might be used to passively scan a resident’s face and body to collect vital signs such as heart rate, oxygen saturation and blood pressure.
In either case, “it doesn’t involve a clinician sitting behind a monitor, nor does it involve any type of livestream; it’s ultimately a computer that’s watching and calling it out,” said Justin Smith, manager of innovation and technology of the Direct Supply Innovation and Technology Center at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), told attendees.
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Other technologies that could play a pivotal role in senior care may seem futuristic right now, but they’re quickly becoming mainstream.
Some of the shift has been driven by pandemic response, Smith said, but added the tools could be used for future illness outbreaks and during flu season.
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One notable development: thermal cameras that can be stationed at a building’s entrance to take a visitor’s temperature in a touchless exchange. By identifying anyone with a fever (a common but not definitive symptom of COVID-19), the tool allows teams to redirect high-risk individuals and collect their data for contact tracing.
Some communities, Smith said, are starting to use ionized air-filtration systems to quickly capture and deactivate foreign particles.
Even toilets could one day offer insights by employing AI sensors to scan outgoing waste for traces of a virus so communities can examine the scope of an outbreak.
Still, a guiding strategy should inform any new or future effort, regardless of its size.
Said Liz Jensen, clinical director at MSOE’s Innovation and Technology Center: “Communities must first ask: ‘Do we understand the problem so we can bring some innovation against it?’”
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