For more than a decade virtual care techniques have been in use in senior living care. While seniors and healthcare staff recognize the value that technology-enabled solutions offer, the biggest ongoing challenge continues to be between policy (think HIPPA) and technology.
Aging seniors are likely to experience some form of virtual care in their lifetime. Below are four benefits of virtual care in health care and senior living.
- Virtual Care Helps Offset Staffing Shortages
Virtual care could satisfy staffing shortages that are often found in care facilities. Recruiting, paying, and retaining necessary staff for senior care is one of the most significant issues senior care facilities face as a whole. The idea that virtual care could offset strains on available staff during after-hours, weekend care, and on holidays is revolutionary for this industry. Virtual monitoring is another facet of virtual care. A provider may monitor audio and video that are connected to a patient's bedside 24-hours a day. Virtual monitoring of senior residents can also alert a skeleton crew of care providers tied to the virtual platform in the event of an emergency to intervene and provide in-person complex or urgent care.
- Virtual Care Helps to Reduce Health Care Costs
Advancing positive outcomes is the goal of virtual care for seniors. Proper implementation and oversight of these systems can avoid unnecessary hospitalization. Unnecessary hospitalization reduces health care costs as well as stress on aging seniors, their caregivers, and family. Because healthcare is becoming prohibitively expensive, senior care providers view virtual care implementation as a high priority for health care reform.
The 2018 Telehealth Industry Trends presentation cites research showing that “…after hours skilled nursing virtual care providers have successfully treated more than 80 percent of skilled nursing residents in place using virtual care technologies.”
Health care provided on site helps residents avoid the expensive costs of hospitalization and the accompanying trauma associated with patient emergency hospital trips.
- Virtual Care Helps Seniors to Age in Place
Virtual care is ideal for assisting the goals of seniors who are keen on aging in in place. Older adults are growing interested in how technology can improve their aging experience while allowing them to maintain healthy independence in their own home.
In the event of a health event, remote monitoring and wearable technologies can alert care providers or loved ones immediately. For seniors who have chronic conditions, this type of monitoring can bring peace of mind. By using an integrated virtual system, the senior also plays an active role in their well being. Home monitoring "smart speaker" service solutions for seniors are being aggressively developed and marketed by non-traditional healthcare companies like Amazon and Google.
- Virtual Care Brings Better Health Care and Quality of Life to Seniors in Rural Areas
Independent senior living will especially benefit through virtual care technologies in rural markets where seniors can struggle to find convenient care options. A major hurdle facing this trend is connectivity. Often times in rural environments internet connections are unreliable and sometimes nonexistent. Programs like Connect Americans Now are working to bridge the digital divide and provide reliable broadband connectivity for some 19.4 million Americans living in rural areas.
Virtual systems can help monitor vital signs of health for difficult to reach senior populations as well as enhance social engagement to offset feelings of loneliness and isolation. These rural seniors benefit immensely by having ease of interaction with healthcare professionals and social contact with friends and loved ones. Overall, virtual care technologies can bring better health care and quality of life to rural seniors.
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