Five Technology Trends Helping Advance Senior Care

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Technology is helping shape the future of health care. In recognition of National Health IT Week, September 26 – 30, QIO News is sharing five top technology trends in improving the quality of health for older adults.

1. Telehealth and E-Visits

Telehealth is part of the movement to supplement appointments at hospitals and clinics with virtual check-ups and patient monitoring in the home. One of the most commonly practiced telehealth services is e-visits,” or consultations with a primary care provider via phone or video streaming service. This allows patients to get face time and ask health questions remotely, which is particularly helpful for seniors who lack transportation options, live in rural or remote areas, or have disabilities or chronic health issues.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, e-visits” can save time for both patients and providers, and lower costs. Telehealth will be a key part of a new CMS project that aims to increase access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas. For more information on telehealth, read this guide available via HealthIT.gov.

2. EHRs and Patient Portals

According to a recent American Hospital Association Trend Watch report, 92 percent of hospitals offer patients the ability to view their medical records online through the use of electronic health records (EHRs). In addition, access to health records through Blue Button and other patient portals is proving especially helpful for elderly people who spend a significant amount of time on regular medical-related tasks like scheduling appointments, refilling prescriptions and coordinating care plans.

Kentucky’s Meaningful Use Workgroup—a committee of local health care organizations in partnership with atom Alliance, the QIN-QIO serving Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee — began using patient portals to promote preventive care, increase patient and family engagement, and improve care transitions. By offering and spreading awareness of this tool, beneficiaries are able to electronically schedule appointments, view lab results, receive medication and screening reminders, and exchange emails with their doctors.

3. Population Health Management

Providers are continuing to search for new ways to improve population health by tracking patients and monitoring quality to reduce unnecessary readmissions. They are finding that big data, analytics and patient engagement technologies can be extremely beneficial in each of these improvement areas.

Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG), the QIN-QIO for Arizona, California, Florida, Ohio and the U.S. Virgin Islands, has seen success in using data and prevention health IT tools to target catheter-associated urinary traction infections (CAUTI). HSAG was able to use data to locate providers who were most in need of health care-associated infection reduction programs, and then provide them with a CAUTI assessment tool to identify a specific intervention and solution.

4. Remote Patient Monitoring

Improving beneficiaries’ ability to age in place, while remaining safe and in control of their health, is another area health IT supports. Remote patient monitoring utilizes devices such as heart rate or blood pressure monitors to collect and send data from patients to providers. This is particularly effective for monitoring high-risk patients on an ongoing basis.

A new study from the University of Missouri Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology has shown the effectiveness of in-home sensors that measure walking speeds in helping identify seniors who are at risk for serious falls. In addition, bed monitors can help track heart and respiration rates while patients are sleeping. The goal of the project is to help seniors stay at home longer and capture early signs of health changes.

5. Telepharmacies

As pharmacists assume a larger role in clinical conversations, telepharmacy networks can serve as an avenue to keep them in the loop on all care decisions regardless of a patient’s proximity to a pharmacy. If correctly implemented and supported by providers, telepharmacies can increase access to drug information, support medication adherence and reduce adverse drug events.

Telligen, the QIN-QIO serving Iowa, Illinois and Colorado, is working to incorporate pharmacists’ perspectives into care initiatives and highlight how their input is meaningful to patient outcomes. Through the implementation of the Iowa Health Information Network, an online portal that supports the sharing of secure patient information, Telligen has helped pharmacists become part of everyday care teams