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The infusion of technology into senior living homes can present an easier life for everyone involved. Whether it’s electronic monitoring devices, digital medical records, or even robotic caregivers, health providers see technology improving senior health by improving quality of care, and allowing medical professionals to do their jobs with increased consistency and effectiveness.
This doesn’t mean that every senior living facility has to be converted into a 21st century marvel of technology. Wi-Fi (local area wireless technology), for example, might feel like less of an innovation these days and more like a societal mainstay. That’s because it’s available in almost every library and coffee shop in the country. Senior living facilities that offer Wi-Fi can make their residents more comfortable and possibly serve as a gateway to more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Wi-Fi can not only give you access to the Internet, but may let monitoring devices send data that your health providers can access (such as readings from blood pressure monitoring equipment).
Electronic Medical Records (EMR) are digitized health records — for example, a patient file. Using a Wi-Fi connection, your doctor or other health provider can pull up a review of your complete medical history on a tablet device if he or she uses this technology. EMR can also provide other information, such as the number of medical specialists you see for specific treatment or therapy, and a complete list of your prescription medications.
Doctors can use EMRs to coordinate alongside any specialists that you see, and nurses or practitioners could have access to this information as well. The end result creates a network of digital patient information so that every aspect of your medical history is readily available. This helps medical professionals in general, but especially if they have to make an important treatment decision quickly. Using Wi-Fi to connect to an EMR means they can review a complete list of up-to-date medical information.
EMR offers a reduction in paper usage, storage space, and other wasteful materials for both patient and staff. When visiting a doctor, you could spend less time filling out paperwork if your records are kept digitally and in real time. This could also be of great benefit to all medical staff members, from aides to nurses, who would have more time to attend to the needs of their patients and less time filling out and filing papers.
Remote monitoring involves a link between home-based monitoring equipment and health-care professionals. One benefit of remote monitoring is that you can maintain as much independence as possible in your senior years. Even if you live alone, remote monitoring can be used to notify a friend or family member in the event of failing health or accident.
There’s also web-enabled wellness monitoring. This teaches you how to manage your current health condition independently. A health-care professional, such as your doctor or nurse practitioner, can remotely check in on you to see if you’ve taken your medications, and ensure that you’re maintaining a reasonable diet or exercise regimen. The overall goal is improved outcomes in patient health which, health-care professionals believe, can reduce health-care costs from hospital admissions and emergency room visits by encouraging patients to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Robot caregivers are another fast-approaching possibility. They might provide a solution for the shrinking number of available health providers. Caregiver robots could be used at home to help manage medical appointments, issue medication reminders, and provide networked communication. In many cases, robots would be used to supplement the caregiving, not replace a human caregiver altogether.
While robot caregiving has yet to become the norm in the health-care industry, the United States, Japan, and much of Europe have invested in the research and perfection of these technologies to encourage their use in the future.
If you have any concerns about the techniques and devices discussed in this article, be aware that not all facilities or health plans use EMR or other electronic health technology. However, more and more health insurance companies and providers are going in this direction. You can ask your provider and health plan what technology they use, and discuss with them any concerns you may have.
This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing in it should be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always consult with your medical provider regarding diagnosis or treatment for a health condition, including decisions about the correct medication for your condition, as well as prior to undertaking any specific exercise or dietary routine.
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