Telecare-assisted AL resident monitoring: study

Research on telecare in the US has been rare of late. Thus this qualitative analysis of focus groups with twelve housing managers from twelve different Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (GSS) assisted living communities in the LivingWell@Home (LW@H) program should be looked at carefully for both benefits of and issues with sensor-based monitoring of residents’ significant activities of daily living (ADLs). On the ten most prevalent themes, the most positive were:

  • Benefits: marketing in bridging home to AL and enhanced quality of care; validation of information helping with resident medical status and overall safety; proactive detection of health events
  • Sleep patterns: quality of sleep was perceived as important, and disturbance as an advance indicator of a change in resident health
  • Family member assurance: family members understand the value of technology-assisted care in advanced alerting to potential health problems. In fact using the system at home was possibly more attractive to them than in AL.

However, issues with the LW@H program ranged from perceptual ones (resident privacy)  to serious with false positives and negatives due to faulty sensors. The system also used telephone lines rather than broadband, so that there was lag time in reporting, in addition to care staff reporting that they noticed changes in resident health faster than the sensors due to frequent contact (e.g. medication ‘passes’). Housing managers also were not happy with the additional cost at $90 per resident per month which would have to be reimbursed, and staff training on how to use the system was also a consistent issue. The University of Minnesota researchers conclude that the telecare technology has ‘limitations that are likely to create barriers to adoption’, and of course proving that resident health outcomes improve while saving cost was beyond the scope of the study. However, it appears that more will be forthcoming from the UM team as they are evaluating the service through a larger randomized trial in GSS facilities.

Editor’s Note: never acknowledged in the study was that the telecare system used for monitoring was WellAWARE, recently purchased by Healthsense.

Technology-Enhanced Nurse Monitoring in Assisted Living: Results from Focus Groups with Housing Managers. Executive Summary (see page 8). Full Study (Seniors Housing and Care Journal, 2013 Volume 21 #1 published by NIC-National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry) Hat tip to reader Andrea Swayne of Pathway Health.

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