Techno health: New devices could fill roles in LTC

Many technology tools originally developed with physicians in mind are beginning to find applications in other healthcare spaces, including long-term care (LTC), according to data gathered by NEHI, a national health policy institute focused on enabling innovation to improve healthcare quality and lower costs.

NEHI’s June 2012 report “Getting to Value:  Eleven Chronic Disease Technologies to Watch” discusses four classes of technology tools, ranging from products that are ready for prime time (home telehealth) to promising ideas that may play valuable roles several years from now (mobile cardiovascular tools, in-car telemedicine).

Just a few of the technologies that may find a regular role in LTC:

Extended care e-visits: tools:  These real-time communications tools mimic a face-to-face physician visit, much like video chat. They can serve as a valuable stopgap for physician shortages and add an extra layer of interaction between nursing home residents and their physicians. Best of all, the ability for more frequent patient encounters, virtual or not, may reduce nursing home resident trips to the emergency room, which are far more expensive than an e-visit, the report states.

Tele-stroke care: With certain types of strokes, the timely administration of blood thinners can reduce deaths and motor impairments. In other cases, the same drug can cause more harm, or even death. Unfortunately, it takes a neurology specialist to determine which type of stroke has occurred. Tele-stroke tools use a portable videoconferencing console and electronic data exchange software to bring the expertise of neurologists at off-site stroke centers to the patient’s side. Assessments can be made much faster, especially in outlying areas whose emergency departments may not have neurology specialists on staff.

Mobile clinical decision support: The rapid adoption of wireless, tablet-based computers is already leveraging the use of previously desktop-bound clinical decision support tools designed for physicians in a range of care settings. What’s just beginning to catch on is the development of applications designed for nurses, pharmacists, and specific care settings such as home visits.

Mobile diabetes tools:  Developers are thinking along the same lines as physicians: Self-monitoring glucose levels is great, but how do we capture the data? Emerging tools will combine the familiar glucose testing meter with a cell phone, providing the ability to conduct tests and transmit the clinical data. The applications of a “test anywhere, submit data anywhere” diabetes applications could find a permanent home As the U.S. obesity rates climb, diabetes rates will likely follow.

Other emerging technology could help residents and caregivers track nutrition habits, provide medication reminders, stimulate the memory and provide tools for independent living.

Topics: Nutrition , Technology & IT