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Digital Innovation is Changing the Long-Term Care Industry

The fundamental purpose of using modern technology in long-term care is improving patient care, and there are so many innovations that have been developed to help long-term care communities and providers achieve that goal.

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The fundamental purpose of using modern technology in long-term care is improving patient care, and there are so many innovations that have been developed to help long-term care communities and providers achieve that goal.

One of the biggest ongoing stories in the business world over the past several years has been the transformative effect digital technology has had on a wide range of industries. Whether it is the connectivity brought about by the Internet of Things, the predictive applications of machine learning, or the power of deep learning tools reminiscent of certain aspects of human cognition, industries across the board have seen many innovations from incorporating state-of-the-art technology into their products or services. 

One industry that has received less attention regarding digital transformation, but is poised to take advantage of it, is long-term care and the facilities that provide it. The truth is that virtually every aspect of the long-term care industry—skilled nursing homes, assisted and independent living communities; continuing care retirement communities; adult foster homes; and at-home care—has the potential for dramatic change resulting from digital transformation. 

The fundamental purpose of using modern technology in long-term care is improving patient care, and there are so many innovations that have been developed to help long-term care communities and providers achieve that goal.  

One notable area is the introduction of telehealth: using secure healthcare and telecommunications tools to help administer patient care. With telehealth, doctors can evaluate patients remotely in conjunction with on-site medical staff, a way to provide care more quickly and cut down on potentially longer waiting periods. Rather than having to find a specialist to deal with a medical issue and then struggle to get an appointment that could be weeks or months away, telehealth allows doctors to consult digitally in a fraction of that time and report back to the patient with the proper course of treatment. This is a major change that has clearly helped the long-term care industry. 

Chat bots are another innovation that have been introduced to facilitate care. While there are times when nothing can replace a one-on-one consultation with a physician, there are still plenty of instances where certain medical needs can be handled digitally. Integrating specialized chat bots, with an imported base of medical knowledge, into digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Cortana can help expedite certain medical functions such as initial diagnoses and over-the-counter prescriptions. 

The same goes for the use of smart devices to help monitor health and maintain patient stability. Fitbit-style monitors worn on the body can identify patients at risk for medical criseand allow for predictive care applications, while implants that act as blood panels (such as, for example, monitoring glucose and hormone levels for managing diabetes and other chronic diseases) are also helping to keep long-term care patients healthy. Additionally, machine vision cameras are being used to monitor physical activity of elders to ensure they’re staying mobile and therefore less prone to illness. 

Naturally, with the increased use of smart devices for health monitoring comes the always-prevalent issue of cybersecurity, meaning long-term care organizations need to take care to ensure cyber protections are not only in place, but frequently updated and tested. This is standard operating procedure for any organization working in the digital field, but its importance cannot be overstated.  

There are also the benefits that come with electronic record-keeping for long-term care patients. While there are legitimate concerns with cloud-based computing due to patient privacy laws governed by HIPAA, most cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure have focused on ensuring HIPAA compliance to enable healthcare providers to utilize the power and cost savings of cloud solutions. There are also benefits deriving from the use of blockchain with patient medical records, which can lead to fast transactions, greater privacy and better security. Again, HIPAA compliance is essential, but there are a number of startup businesses that are examining ways to ensure it. 

Like nearly every other major industry in the country, long-term care is rapidly changing due to digital transformation. As history has always taught us, innovation never ceasesThose organizations that are adapting now and implementing changes that could have long-term benefits will be much better prepared for whatever comes next.  

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