Today's long-term care administrators have the benefit of choosing from a vast array of technologies to provide for the safety, security, and dignity of their residents. But deciding which technology will provide the most value to a senior care community can be a daunting task. The process can be simplified by checking the technology against four basic questions:
Does the technology comply with accepted standards?
Does the technology integrate with other existing or planned technologies?
Does the technology maintain resident dignity?
Does the technology offer an ongoing level of support?
Any technology chosen must be in compliance with published safety standards. Technologies used in senior living communities often carry the weight of life safety, and as such are subject to state and federal regulations and codes. These codes usually specify compliance with standards that are created and tested by independent laboratories, such as Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Protection Association. Compliance with published safety standards ensures that a considered technology will not inflict harm to a resident, reducing any potential liability to the care community.
Technologies should be based upon industry-wide standards created by organizations such as Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the ZigBee Alliance, and Bluetooth SIG. These types of standards provide value by assuring interoperability of components from various vendors. They also typically specify higher levels of performance and reliability than safety standards require. Not all industry standards are equal however, and the cost of adherence to a standard must also be taken into account; for example, adherence to the WiFi standard for a system that doesn't need its full capabilities can result in an unnecessarily expensive infrastructure investment.
At a glance…
Technology can add value to your residents and facility when it has been tested to safety standards, is integrated with other technologies, takes into account resident dignity, and is simple to install and maintain.
A technology's ability to integrate with other systems is another key attribute. In healthcare, organizations like the Continua Health Alliance work with its members to publish guidelines of cross-system interoperability. This interoperability allows a caregiver to carry only a single notification device, such as a cordless phone or pager, and receive calls generated from a variety of integrated sources: an emergency call system, a wandering alert system, and a fall prevention system. By integrating with notification systems, the facility gains the efficiency of seamless operation while lessening the burden of carrying multiple devices.
Integrated systems provide a single point for generating and accessing reports with collated data collected from different systems. Integrated reports are more comprehensive and provide a broader breadth of understanding with fewer errors compared to manual attempts to consolidate information from multiple sources. These reports can often be configured by a facility for specific needs or exported into other data systems.
Resident dignity, aesthetics
Any technology selected must keep resident dignity and facility aesthetics in mind. For example, in compliance with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services homelike environment guidelines, many new technologies eliminate audible alarms and flashing lights by directing discreet messages to specific caregivers. Caregivers who carry portable notification devices are able to receive messages, while continuing their duties and interacting with residents, rather than sitting idly at the nurse station waiting for the next call.
The final consideration should be how the technology is manufactured, installed, integrated, and supported for the long term. Ideally, a single vendor would manage all four areas. A vendor with an integrated set of technologies not only results in a smoother installation with fewer disruptions to daily facility activity, but also ensures a single point of contact and accountability for the overall system. When a problem arises in an integrated system with technologies from multiple vendors, diagnosing and fixing that problem can be a challenge; if the problem cannot clearly be isolated to a single subsystem, individual vendors will often just point fingers. A facility receives better service and long-term support by consolidating vendors and relying upon a single contact to solve system issues.
Technology can add value when it has been tested to safety standards, is integrated with other technologies, takes into account resident dignity, and is simple to install and maintain. The senior care community can positively use these technology attributes to assure residents and their families of their safety and security, ease the daily burden on staff to operate and manage the system, and result in a lower total cost of ownership, a more marketable care community, and happier and safer residents.