Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 10, 2013

Is Telehealth Patient Monitoring Considered Big Brother?



Everyone is still afraid of big brother. No one wants to be watched or monitored to see if they are doing the right thing. It seems that there are cameras everywhere lately. However, when a monitoring device lets you live a more normal life and actually does give you more freedom instead of taking it away, is it a bad thing?

LivingWell@Home offers a suite of technologies designed to help seniors live more independently and remain longer in the place they choose to call home. In June 2010, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust bestowed an $8.1 million grant to the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. This money was used to create a research project designed to study the effectiveness of using sensor technology, personal emergency response systems and telehealth services to help seniors achieve their health and well-being goals.

The LivingWell@Home program employs sensors to identify medical concerns or trends among residents in combination with current telehealth data (a home device that sends vitals remotely) and existing central data monitoring services. The sensors utilize technology to identify variations in a resident's routine that may indicate a health concern or risk.

The LivingWell@Home program provides remote healthcare monitoring for 1,600 elderly patients in five states. This is accomplished from a single surveillance center in South Dakota where nurses provide 24-hour observation. The three-year research study monitors seniors in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa communities.

Ramona Olson, the director of assisted living at the Good Samaritan Society Loveland Village, said "It provides another layer for improving safety and quality of care by identifying changes in key wellness indicators such as sleep quality, activity level and bathroom visits. Identifying problems early on can significantly improve quality of life for our residents. This program doesn't interrupt your daily life. The sensors won't tell us what a resident is doing every minute, but they will give us an idea of movement. For instance, if a resident is frequently getting up during the middle of the night, it can alert us to a possible problem."

Any changes that are found in a senior’s normal routine are routed to a team of nurses located at the South Dakota surveillance center. There are bed sensors to indicate how many times a person gets out of bed, or in a worse case, doesn’t get out of bed at all. There are three types of information, motion sensors, blood pressure cuffs and scales that transmit information to the monitor sensor and each senior is provided with an emergency alert button.

Although no cameras or microphones are used to “keep an eye” on the seniors, there is still a sense that Big Brother is watching you. There is, however, also a sense of relief from the seniors and their families knowing that if anything were to happen a staff member could immediately be alerted and a serious incident could be averted.

The technology costs about $500-$750 per month for seniors living at home and about $175 per patient in an assisted living center




Edited by Brooke Neuman




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