Homecare Professionals and the Internet of Things
Reasons this pairing is a match made in heaven
by Alice Williams

As a homecare professional, your job is to provide care, comfort and security to the patients with whom you are entrusted. By 2030, one out of five people in America will be over the age of 65. As the number of seniors continues to rise, so will the demands on your job. Fortunately, new technology in the form of the Internet of Things (IoT) can help to improve patient care without sacrificing the personal touch you provide to your patients.

What is the Internet of Things?

Simply, the IoT is a network of devices that talk to one another by connecting over the Internet. It is the type of technology that allows a security alarm to send a message to a homeowner via text, or lets a busy working mom turn the slow cooker down from her smartphone when her meeting runs long. With such a wide range of devices—from video monitoring systems that allow caregivers to keep an eye on patients from another room to fitness monitors that help you track patient activity levels—the IoT may finally be the tool that gives you eyes in the back of your head and a needed extra hand.

Aging in Place with the IoT

With more seniors choosing to remain in their own homes, it is smart to consider the benefits of using connected technology to create a safe care environment. Home automation devices can detect motion in and out of rooms, adjust temperature based on activity and trigger alerts if doors and gates are opened.

But IoT technology does not end with motion sensors; it can also help you automate everyday tasks. Smart lightbulbs, for example, allow you to set lighting schedules in a patient’s room, helping to regulate sleep habits. Automated outlets ensure no appliances accidentally get left on, which mitigates potential fire and electrical hazards. Smart doorbells let you see who is at the door, and even speak with visitors, without ever having to leave your patient’s side.

Smart security systems also fall into the realm of home automation, and an alarm system can help you bolster your patient’s overall security. Because elderly residents would be at a disadvantage in the event of a home invasion, security monitoring can help provide both you and your patients with a extra peace of mind.

Patient Monitoring

Patient monitoring is another IoT tool that can enhance patient care. Because it is not possible to be with your patient 100 percent of the time, patient monitoring can help you see what is happening in the patient’s room or home, no matter where you are.

Video is one form of patient monitoring that lets you observe your patient while you make dinner or tend to other necessary duties. Several self-monitored video cameras allow live stream access, and some of the more sophisticated models allow for two-way audio, allowing you to talk to your patient if something seems amiss.

Health and fitness monitors that your patient can wear also offer a mine of valuable data and information. If you use wearable monitors that upload data to a cloud-based hub, you can get updates in real time about things such as oxygen level, heart rate, activity and other crucial measurements that help you provide quality care.

Additionally, it’s easy to share your daily monitoring reports on a patient’s status with other involved parties, including family members, physicians and other caregivers. This can be valuable if you share your caregiving duties with other providers throughout the day. It also helps you provide peace of mind to concerned family members who value regular updates on their loved one.

New IoT Developments

Current IoT homecare utilities are just the tip of the iceberg, according to Chris Edwards, a global marketing strategist for health care technology and CMO for digital heath platform Validic.

“In the future, when bringing together biometric data with detailed activity data that extends far beyond what wearables and devices currently offer, insights not previously thought possible will emerge,” Edwards said in a recent Healthcare IT News article. “For example, data from a car related to erratic driving combined with speech patterns from a smartphone can provide detailed insights on a person’s stress level. Analytics programs could integrate that data to help predict a manic episode in a person with mental health issues.” Those same analytic developments could also apply to early detections of Alzheimer’s-related agitation, allowing you to adjust your care tactics in the event that a patient may become flustered or upset.

As the IoT continues to develop, patient monitoring will give way to better early detection of potentially life-threatening developments. For example, an irregular heart rate would trigger an alert to both you and the patient’s cardiologist, allowing you to provide appropriate care immediately.

Further IoT developments may help provide some independence for homecare patients, as well. If a device could reliably operate as an early warning system, patients could enjoy a higher degree of autonomy without sacrificing the security of having care when it’s really needed.

Costs of IoT Technology in Homecare Settings

For those worried about the cost of incorporating home automation into current homecare routines, chances are it will cost your patient less than a stay in assisted living or a nursing home. Semico Research and Consulting Group reports, “Elderly who can avoid lengthy nursing home stays, on average, have a median household wealth that is 1,130 percent greater than those who have stayed in a nursing home more than 180 days.”

Not only does IoT technology provide patients with the ability to age in place, but it may ultimately keep health costs down across the board. By alerting health care providers to health anomalies sooner, the IoT can help ensure treatment before health conditions become even more serious.

As a home health provider, your sensitivity to your patient’s comfort and how you provide quality care allows your patients to live happy and healthy in their own homes. If you believe your patients could benefit from the advances of connected technology, learn more about IoT systems and the difference they can make. Your personal touch cannot be replaced, but it can be enhanced by the additional peace of mind provided through connected technology.