The Growing Role of AI in the Senior Care Industry
Artificial intelligence (AI) is more than a trend. The technology stands poised to reshape the ways that senior care facilities operate. With AI able to facilitate communication, provide companionship, control building operations, enhance security, and more, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing more facilities invest in this technology. But what options are best for your facility, and how can you best get started using AI? Multiple experts weigh in.
How AI Can Enhance Senior Care Facilities
The potential applications of AI in the senior care industry are endless, and they continue to evolve. “AI in healthcare can be used to mimic the clinical decision-making pathways of trained healthcare providers,” explains Rebecca E. Gwilt, partner and co-founder at Nixon Gwilt Law.
“In many senior care facilities, residents don’t always have access to post-acute specialists. Clinical decision support tools that use AI can supplement the experience and judgment of staff when a specialist isn’t available – e.g., learning from data inputs and trends to enhance diagnosis, treatment suggestions, and even alerting clinicians to medication interactions. AI can also be used to derive key insights from healthcare and data stored in EMRs, payer claims files, consumer wearables, and government databases to improve care and control costs,” explains Gwilt.
AI can also contribute to increased engagement, connection, and protection for residents. Mark Gray, Founder and CEO of Constant Companion, notes that those three elements are essential for residents. “The mental engagement that happens when interacting with smart speakers is fun, but it also keeps us mentally sharp and engages our brain. Engagement is huge and does so much for us at any age.”
Gray explains that connection is also vital. “There’s been lots of use of smart speakers and video products this last year. We all need connection, and I think that those are the things that people think about first – being able to call and see family.” AI can provide that valuable connection, even during times of social distancing. Gray reports that Constant Companion users feel connected to their “little digital roommate.”
One user, whose children described as being “tough on people,” was initially wary of the technology. The day after it was installed, though, she reported, “I’ve got a little roommate and I’m the boss of her!”
AI also delivers a sense of protection and security. “It’s a basic human need to feel safe,” says Gray. “I think that most of the time, it’s actually the family members who want AI for Mom and Dad. They worry, even in assisted living, that what if their parent needs something and no one’s paying attention?” Bedside AI technology lets residents communicate via an intercom, connecting right to the nurses’ desk.
That enhanced connection and sense of security can have other benefits for staff, too. Gray notes that the facilities that have installed Constant Companion have seen a reduction in the number of times that residents use panic buttons for attention. Previously, residents would use the panic button to get attention – even negative. With AI, they have a device that kindly speaks to them and gives them unlimited attention. “They don’t feel they need to pull a button for attention, and that frees up the staff to get to people who really need assistance,” says Gray.
Frank Sullivan, Chief Business Development Officer at BrainBox AI, notes that senior care facility residents and building owners aren’t the only ones to receive the benefits of AI, and the environment can benefit, too. “At BrainBox AI, our solution improves occupant comfort by 60%, generates up to a 25% reduction in energy spend, and decreases the carbon footprint of a building by 20-40%, all in less than three months. We strongly believe that advanced technologies, such as those driven by AI, deliver the best of both worlds: increased sustainability and financial gain.”
Implementing AI in a Senior Care Setting
Facility owners and administrators will need to consider multiple factors when deciding when and how to implement AI technology. Sullivan recommends that facilities review the technologies that are currently available, as well as the real results that they have been able to achieve. “AI in real estate is relatively new and there are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around. Thorough research and the analysis of product case studies will make it clear what can be expected from a solution,” he explains.
Sullivan also suggests that facilities look for solutions that deliver results quickly, and that don’t require significant upfront capital. “The best AI-driven solutions are typically nimble and light touch, and should not require that organizations wait years to receive their return on investment.”
Gwilt recommends that facilities focus on the ROI that AI offers. “All tools can range broadly in price. “If this technology can keep your patients from being admitted to the hospital, then there are real financial gains to be had. However, if that’s not your pain point, a technology to help reduce admissions might not be of value. Maybe what you’re really worried about is fall risk. There are app-based solutions that use AI to predict fall risk to help you direct your attention to the most at-risk patients. Your money might be better spent there,” she explains. “I encourage my clients not to fall into the “bright, shiny object” trap.”
She suggests that facilities take a multi-step approach to considering AI. First, a facility should identify the problem it faces. Next, it should go looking for a solution. “There are a lot of exciting innovations out there, but ultimately you should be thinking about tech as an investment that pays dividends, financial or otherwise,” says Gwilt.
Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. “Post-acute facilities should consider creative arrangements that align incentives with vendors—things like value-based payments and shared savings are not just for ACOs anymore. The new federal AKS safe harbors allow for much more creative pricing among providers and technology vendors,” Gwilt notes.
Advancements in AI technology can solve many challenges for senior care facilities. As AI continues to evolve, it’s sure to become more commonplace in these settings. From helping to alleviate loneliness to enhancing resident safety and streamlining work for staff, AI is already transforming the senior care industry.
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