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Al Baker

Four ways data can enhance care delivery for seniors

From the May 2017 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine
We’re living in an age when analytics is changing everything.

Whether you’ve seen how New York is analyzing its history of street re-pavement, how Airbus is applying prescriptive analytics using engine sensors to reduce their planes’ ground time or how Google improves its targeted ads for that next purchase — you’ve probably heard of how analytics is impacting something around you.

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Analytics is also going to change senior care. We’re living in an age where technology is now so accessible that toddlers and seniors both use tablets. With the adoption of wearables , there is a vast amount of data being produced, which can be analyzed to provide more personalized care. Here are just a few ways analytics can be used to enhance senior care and improve lives.

Preventing potential health threats
In senior living communities, care providers can’t be everywhere at once, and they especially can’t observe and engage with their residents at all times of the day and night. Some of the most common occurring issues in senior living, such as falls and urinary tract infections (UTIs), can be avoided through a better understanding of data and analytics. These expensive and potentially fatal events are often predicted by abnormalities in mobility and activity levels. A UTI often has a 72-hour period where it is increasingly painful to walk, accompanied by an uptick in bathroom visits. By combining the walking patterns of seniors using wearables and their use of bathrooms with lights or sensors, a caregiver can identify these symptoms sooner and prescribe preventive care, saving the $13,000 that an average UTI hospitalization costs.

Saving valuable time for caregivers and families
A family member providing care to a senior loses an average of $304,000 over a lifetime. The time spent ”checking in on mom” consumes a significant amount of time for caregivers and leads to an increased amount of stress. This often results in ”mom” moving to a senior living community sooner rather than later. Using data and analytics, professional caregivers and family members can now use key data metrics comparing a senior’s health relative to their usual activity levels to help make decisions and prioritize time. This kind of objective insight provides immense value for the concerned relative, caring friend and family of the caregiver.

Providing more personalized experiences for seniors
When older adults meet with their physician or nurse, they are tasked with the surprisingly difficult job of bridging the gap to express any setbacks or improvements in their personal health from the prior visit, particularly when a family member cannot be present. Has anything changed? If so, by how much? Less active? More fatigued? Analytics can help uncover this information in a more accessible and dependable way for caregivers than relying on a patient to track their own health improvements and declines. Often, the changes in one’s activity levels are gradual over time, but a significant indicator of the effectiveness of their treatment. Understanding these indicators and using them to improve care results in better medical care, and more importantly, healthier outcomes. Furthermore, more communities are including fitness and wellness centers as part of their service, which lends themselves to a more coordinated fitness regimen that is catered to each individual’s mobility.

Greater impact on senior health care as a whole
In addition to improving care on a personalized level, combining individual mobility information with broader data sources, such as medical records and claims information, can assist health care providers in assessing and grading their work on behalf of seniors as a whole. The “multiplier effect” of combining data from many participants benefits a much larger community by helping drug companies advance their products, senior living facilities improve their exercise and wellness programs and doctors adjust their treatment regimens.

When it comes to senior care, wearables and IoT sensors can play a huge role in improving the delivery of care with the 24/7 monitoring that’s available through the devices. And by adopting new technology and being open to the use of analytics in care delivery, professional caregivers and family members can improve not only individualized senior care, but the industry as a whole.

About the author: Al Baker is co-founder and CEO of Reemo. Contributions to this article were also made by Peter Obringer, vice president, strategic ventures, of Teradata, and Jose Basa, vice president of technology, new business development, of Teradata.

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