Significant demographic changes in the opposite direction are putting great strain on the healthcare industry.
First, the U.S. population is aging. A May 2021 report predicts that by 2040, there will be nearly 81 million adults aged 65 and over in the U.S., up from 54 million in 2019. As the nation ages, the need for health services grows.
However, the number of health professionals available to care for this aging population is declining. The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living found in September 2021 that 59 percent of nursing homes had severe staff shortages.
What can help health care organizations to respond to the growing need for care? Technology. Solutions such as Internet of Things, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and portable devices can help healthcare providers monitor and treat patients more effectively while reducing physician demand.
“The global pandemic has greatly accelerated the need for technology to be essential on seniors’ campuses, ”says Liz Cramer, CDW’s chief post-acute care strategist. “The world is looking for ways to improve workflows and make workers more mobile. This has accelerated the need for technology, the use of technology, and the growth of technology budgets.”
LEARN MORE: Read how technology is driving the evolution of care for post-acute patients and older adults.
Smart technology is expanding the reach of care providers
Connected devices such as smart home technologies for lighting, door locks, heating and air conditioning, as well as smart assistants that allow these systems to be controlled by voice, offer valuable benefits to both residents and independent communities.
“Advances in smart home technology have allowed residents to age more on the spot,” says Jessica Longly, a senior care strategist at CDW Healthcare. “Patients with congestive heart failure or chronic lung disorders can use smart home appliances to make life easier. These advances will relieve pressure on nursing staff and allow task automation to spend more time with patients.”
As communities living for older adults adopt more intelligent solutions, they may face challenges in managing and securing them. Security tools that allow you to manage your device fleet can lighten the burden on IT teams.
AR and VR bring valuable benefits to older adults
AR and VR solutions offer great hope for independent and assisted living communities. “VR was emerging as an important technology before the pandemic,” Longly says. “He took a back seat during the pandemic, but is now returning.”
VR tools can help patients with physical fitness, therapy, and rehabilitation, and help physicians assess balance and fall risk. Caregivers have also used VR to manage pain and relieve patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, older adults can take advantage of VR to participate in experiences that might not otherwise be available, such as visiting a foreign country or watching a Broadway show. Research suggests that regular participation in these virtual experiences can improve the relaxation and well-being of older adults.
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Laptops and Fitness Trackers
Many assisted and independent communities are finding portable devices, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, that adults can be more involved in their care while improving their health and safety. For example, devices like the Samsung Galaxy Watch allow for strict heart monitoring that can help both patients and doctors closely monitor their patients’ health.
Living solutions that add predictive analytics capabilities to these solutions can help older adults care for chronic conditions and deal with minor problems before they become a major health issue. Applications running on portable devices allow providers to monitor patients’ blood pressure, detect atrial fibrillation, and measure blood oxygen levels.
Laptops can also provide fall detection capabilities to help care providers respond to incidents more quickly.
“There’s an opportunity to give our neighbors laptops so we can stay connected with them, even when they’re outside their apartments,” Longly says. “If we start to see that the vitals are changing, we can send someone to check on them if necessary.”
Ultimately, these technologies can help healthcare providers meet the growing demand for quality care.