Technology advances in the healthcare industry are improving quality of life and efficiency, but technology tailored for skilled nursing homes and other senior housing facilities appears to be lagging behind, Cambridge Realty Capital Companies reports.

“Facility owners and operators that can identify and implement useful technologies now may be able to set themselves apart from the competition by increasing efficiency, quality of care, and resident satisfaction,” Cambridge Chairman Jeffrey Davis observes.

He says wearable health monitors that track an individual’s vitals and other health information effortlessly can be used in a variety of ways.  For example, information can be reviewed by treating physicians who are able to obtain an overall picture of the patient’s vitals in this manner instead of relying on at-the-moment vital checks obtained during a medical visit.

“These technologies can also be used for real-time monitoring, which allows for early identification of a potentially life-threatening condition, like the appearance of an irregular heartbeat,” he said.

Mr. Davis says there are risks associated with this technology that senior housing operators should take steps to guard against. Because data from monitors is typically transmitted electronically, the FTC has cautioned that transmittal poses the risk that a monitored individual’s private health information might be hacked, increasing security and privacy risks.

“But the FTC has acknowledged that the benefits of this technology appear to outweigh the risks,” he said.

The Cambridge blog post makes the point that falls pose one of the greatest risks to residents living in senior facilities with a corresponding liability for senior housing owners and operators.  New monitoring systems can identify unusual changes in movement and alert staff when such an event occurs.

Mr. Davis says the systems can be used in independent living communities where they may enable seniors to live safely longer. Unlike monitoring systems of the past, newer technologies rely on motion, not cameras or microphones, and thus don’t require seniors to sacrifice privacy for safety.

Technology devices like tablets can be used in a variety of ways to improve the health and well-being of residents in senior housing communities.  On the most basic level, the devices can help seniors keep in touch with family and friends through video chats and email.

Mr. Davis says some facilities provide residents with iPads they can use for access to news, books and other entertainment.  The same devices can be used for brain training to help maintain or improve mental function.

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