Some of the Best In-Home Care Technology May Surprise You

When the in-home care services industry talks about technology, there are a number of innovative and out-there ideas that come to mind.

While some might think about robots that dispense medications or remote monitoring platforms that sense every move a senior makes, the really useful aspects of emerging technology may involve less of a Big Brother approach, and more of common-sense look at what’s working—and what providers want most.

Here are a few of the most useful technology themes providers are currently using and considering:

Transportation

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about the “Uberization” of health care services as companies roll out on-demand platforms. But several home care providers are simply leveraging Uber and other ride-sharing companies such a Lyft as partners to add services.

From bringing caregivers to patients’ homes to transporting patients home from the hospital, ride-sharing is catching on in the senior care industry. 24Hr HomeCare, a California-based private duty home care provider with locations in Arizona and Texas, began its ridesharing partnerships with Uber, and is now providing 1,500 rides per month through these partnerships, Gavin Ward, regional director of strategy and partnerships at 24Hr HomeCare, told HHCN.

Since initially partnering with ride-sharing companies, 24Hr HomeCare has provided roughly 20,000 total rides and partnered with 40 hospitals and health care organizations to service patients, including California-based hospitals MemorialCare and Huntington Hospital, according to Ward.

“For us, rather than directly investing in technology, it’s investing with the right partners,” Ward told HHCN. “We feel there is an existing technology already [available], and we can be the bridge for that solution.”

Mobility

Undoubtedly, the world is mobilizing. From electronic health records (EHRs) that are accessed on a smartphone to documentation and scheduling through an app, health care is quickly moving toward mobile functions that can be done anywhere.

However, not all mobile technology is digital. For example, a new home health care requirement with under the upcoming Conditions of Participation (CoPs) includes a mandate that assures patients and caregivers have written information about visits, medication instructions, treatments, instructions for care, and the name and contact information of the clinical manager. With the need for these documents on site, some providers are turning to mobile printers that allow caregivers to print this information on the go.

“All the data goes into a laptop or tablet and the status [of a patient] goes into [an agency’s] system,” David Crist, president of mobile printer company Brother Mobile Solutions, told Home Health Care News. “Then comes this moment of truth where they need to produce an updated medication list or an update to the care plan and have it be left behind.”

Enter the mobile printer. With a January 2018 implementation date for the new CoPs—and the requirement to leave physical documents behind for patients and other caregivers—this useful tech might be critical in compliance.

The emergence of these printers, which are about “the size of a spaghetti box,” in health care is coming after many providers have already adopted software for medical records and established workflows with the technology.

“Now, [the industry] has come back around to the notion that the software investments are done and they want more ROI out of that investment,” Crist said. “That means looking at devices and workflows. What we are seeing is a maturation phase as far as the adoption of tech is concerned. You don’t want to put the cart before the horse—buying the printer before the software.”

Interoperability

Beyond meeting regulations that require physical compliance, in-home care providers are desperately seeking interoperability in a health care world that is increasing spread across mismatched digital platforms, according to Katie Roper, vice president of health care strategy and partnerships with Home Care Assistance, a California-based home care provider. In other words, providers in different care settings need technology that can allow different systems to talk to each other as a patient moves through the care continuum.

“We end up working with a lot of other providers—hospice, hospital—and everybody uses a different platform,” she told HHCN. “The plain, old handwritten notes in a binder at a patient’s home are as useful as anything out there if all providers have access to it. We’d like to get off that, but interoperability is a problem.”

One solution Home Care Assistance has turned to is PreparedHealth, a Chicago-based tech startup that aims to bring health care providers and services together. Home Care Assistance is piloting PreparedHealth’s enTouch technology in the Philadelphia area, Roper told HHCN.

The New Jersey-based Bayada Home Health Care, one of the nation’s largest home health care providers, has already bet that the startup company is on to something, with the provider rolling out the platform across its 300 locations.

Others agree that interoperability is an industry-wide issue, and that other senior-centric problems can only be solved in the future with technology that is interoperable across digital systems.

“If someone is coming up with a problem to solve, it’s got to be able to integrate with other systems,” Ward said. “That’s going to be key. Software companies will see that, and adapt.”

Written by Amy Baxter