1. “This pandemic accelerated the adoption of senior care technology,” notes Jerry Wilmink, chief business officer of CarePredict, explaining how resident tech like telehealth and remote monitoring solutions now make it possible for older adults to receive safe, timely care and continuous observation.
That said, be mindful of the remnant vulnerabilities COVID-19 left behind, experts warn. One is a false sense of security.
“The biggest risk is relaxing restrictions too quickly before we achieve herd immunity,” said Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology and business strategy and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies.
The early reopening scenario could put the burden of verifying vaccination status on providers and their staff while exposing unvaccinated people to infection and facilitating virus spread, he added. An AARP analysis recently cited unvaccinated visitors and staff as a catalyst for ongoing nursing home cases.
Opening up too fast also exposes facilities to potential cyberattacks.
“This obviously increased potential vulnerabilities, especially on personal devices that are less managed and less monitored, leaving organizations more exposed to hacking, phishing, ransomware, and other cybersecurity attacks,” Alwan added, suggesting “more secure” and “trusted” discussion platforms like HealthJay and the Selfhelp Virtual Senior Center.
2. Consider these tips for keeping your guard up in the downshifting COVID-19 era, Wilmink said. Thwart the infection as soon as it rears its head. For example, Wilmink’s own facility-based research found digital contact tracing to be the most efficient in controlling and stopping secondary transmissions of the virus by over 52%. Protect residents without life-limiting measures. Adopt an overall preventive, proactive approach.
“Shifting the care paradigm from reactive to proactive yields the best results,” he added.
3. Providers would do well to invest in COVID-19 tested resident tech.
One service that could gain quick adoption and popularity are facial recognition scanners that combine temperature-reading and mask-recognition capabilities.
“These were excellent examples of a technology response that offered value, both during but now even following the pandemic,” said Andrew Carle, adjunct faculty member of the Georgetown University curricula in Senior Living Administration.
“Employees shouldn’t be coming to work with a fever at any time, but often don’t recognize the severity of an illness or decide to try to work through it,” he said.
Visitor management tech, meanwhile, offers a host of new applications like health screening, face recognition, mobile-based QR coding, integration with real-time tracking for contact tracing, and touchless interactions like body temperature readings using infrared or thermal imaging, and automated data collection like informed consent, added Alwan.
Finally, cutting-edge rapid testing technology got a shot in the arm during COVID-19, and it offers a host of new resident security applications, as Rochester, NY, provider Friendly Senior Living discovered when it developed a proprietary, low-cost lab electronic medical record.
It can process rapid COVID-19 tests, reduce staff hours involved and be used to comply with state reporting requirements.
The innovation has saved the organization over $1 million, said Joel Snyder, director of information technology.
4. Going forward, it will be critical for providers to forge a balance between resident safety and freedom.
In the meantime, expect restrictions to remain a part of everyday nursing home life.
“They’re likely to either become regulatory compulsory or best management practice,” said Patrick Hardy, president of disaster management firm Hytropy.
Hardy believes guest check-in, often provided at least in part by kiosks, will remain compulsory.
He also foresees better engineering controls, physical changes to support more private rooms, smaller communal dining with greater distancing and social activities that require less physical interaction.
“Security and freedom go hand in hand,” added Troy Dayon, president of Stanley Healthcare. “A safe environment is what enables wellbeing and the freedom to socialize, spend time with family and whatever else provides meaning in residents’ lives.”
Dayon sees four emerging trends: A shift from reactive to proactive, as providers learn to use technology to stay ahead of problems; AI, machine learning and other data-driven tech that will develop more targeted-inspired or generated personal care plans, and other individualized measures; new technology that will maximize caregiver effectiveness; and resiliency to be ready for future risks by building in flexibility in how communities deliver care to seniors.