Tech tools are certainly helping operators improve care and their bottom lines. It seems like hardly a day goes by without a new app, tool or software application riding to the rescue. But as anyone who has ever had to deal with tech support can attest, technology is great — when it works as intended.
When it doesn’t? Let’s just say that keyboards, smartphones, monitors and printers may face a higher injury risk.
Which brings me to last week’s announcement that the new Apple Watch Series 4 will offer electrocardiogram readings. The same watch has also received federal clearance for another feature that detects atrial fibrillation.
There’s no doubt these additions are going to help save lives going forward. The early warnings they provide will in many cases be the difference between life and death. They probably also will play a key role in preventing and minimizing the non-lethal consequences of postponed caregiving.
But it may not be all crimson and clover for skilled care operators here, for a few reasons.
The first is what might politely be called the risk of false positives. In other words, some of your residents or aides may look at readings and conclude a health crisis is in progress. An ambulance ride and several hours at the hospital later, it might be determined that the alarm was false.
This is no mere hypothetical. The Seattle Times reports that a growing number of cardiologists are concerned about the implication of wrapping fitness- and medical condition-trackers around wrists.
“I’ve had to tell patients: Just take off the Fitbit and don’t look at the data,” Gregory Marcus, M.D., a cardiologist and the director of clinical research in cardiology at the University of California-San Francisco, is quoted as saying.
Then there’s the flip side of overreacting: Doing nothing. Should the data indicate a possible problem and the staff concludes it’s nothing serious, a whole new set of legal exposure issues could arise if something serious plays out. Plus, all that data the staff did not respond to will be well-preserved for future consideration by plaintiffs’ attorneys and others who might be interested.
It’s possible some facilities may soon be advised by legal counsel to prohibit the use of wearable devices on the premises. And they say irony is dead?
John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.