Advancing Care With Location Technology
New technology aims to keep older adults safe and their environments pleasant.
The health care industry is on the cusp of transforming itself with location technology, with hospitals around the world reporting meaningful benefits to workflow, patient experience, and safety. Given the fact that they also employ clinical staff and face several of the same security and financial challenges as hospitals, many believe older adult living communities are the logical next step.
But these living communities go beyond hospital environments—they are the crossroads of health care and hospitality. Not only do these communities aim to provide quality care but they also strive for a pleasant resident experience. Location technology offers a variety of applications to address both objectives.
IoT refers to the system of computing devices that exchange data over a network without requiring human-to-computer or human-to-human interaction (which is particularly important now in light of COVID-19). It allows for the easy integration of real-time location data with other older adult living technology systems, such as those used for emergency calls.
RTLS is most well-known for its equipment management capabilities in health care settings. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, for example, reported saving $3.5 million per year by using RTLS to improve and optimize the use of its equipment. But RTLS has several more health care use cases, such as data analytics, contact tracing, wireless emergency calls, environmental monitoring, wander management, and access control of restricted areas—all of which can also improve the safety for residents and workflow for staff in older adult care communities.
The most advanced RTLS integrates with other software, such as an electronic health record (EHR) solution, for the purpose of data collection and analytics. When a community implements multiple location technology applications, it’s referred to as an RTLS.
RTLS works to create total wireless campus coverage, meaning environments do not need to rely on traditional connectivity through the internet. There’s also the added benefit of a closed network, which improves network reliability and security. Essentially this private network gives communities the ability to control who is accessing records and how they are using them, minimizing the chance of data breaches.
Installation of location systems are often seamless—older adult care communities can even utilize staff members for installation. A comprehensive RTLS provider will give step-by-step instructions and certification of systems through a wizard and mobile application programs for each device.
Beyond the Basics
Certainty-based technologies—including infrared and ultrasound—support wall-constrained systems, meaning they don't bleed through a community’s walls and ceilings. This provides the most accurate location of staff, residents, and visitors in a defined area.
In addition to being increasingly affordable, wireless, and simple to install, certainty-based locating is also the most reliable, giving staff the ability to access true location down to room-level accuracy. This is compared with approximate locating, which gives an estimate or vicinity in which an individual might be located.
In the case of older adult living, accuracy matters. In an emergency, every second counts; ensuring a resident who needs assistance can be found is crucial. With certainty-based locating, precious seconds won’t be wasted trying to locate the resident in need.
In short, RTLS coupled with IoT provides a real-time view of the location of people and products in a given community. There are multiple use cases for these technologies, but they all have one common goal in older adult living: to improve the quality of care and life of residents.
The Role of Wearables
Administrators have the ability to set unique permissions based on risk level and other factors. For example, for residents in memory care, zone triggers and access control can be set to help prevent residents from wandering off or inadvertently causing themselves harm. Likewise, if residents are at risk for wandering at specific times during the day, administrators can also set time-based rules. These features allow older adults to maintain a sense of independence within their communities while giving staff the ability to ensure their safety and their families’ peace of mind.
IoT wearables connect to a facility’s RTLS, making their use convenient and efficient for caregivers of older adults. Staff can receive real-time notifications through connected mobile apps, SMS messaging, and e-mail. A facility can set and distinguish multiple alert types, including resident-initiated alerts from pendants and pull cords, while automating location alerts that indicate wandering, loitering, or lack of activity. Other alerts include fire, supervisory, and duress alarms.
After an alert is addressed, the staff member is given a simple form to log documentation codes into the system. This can automatically sync with the older adult communities’ EHR systems. Data collection allows a team to know more about an individual, making it easier to plan for subsequent experiences.
Creating a Safe Environment
Likewise, RTLS can be implemented to improve hand hygiene compliance by recording when caregivers enter and exit resident rooms and whether they washed their hands or used hand sanitizer before and after doing so. The system then generates a report for management to review. They’re significantly more efficient and reliable than manual hand hygiene monitoring of the past.
Security and Duress
Staff wearables also act as emergency buttons; similar to how residents can push them if they need help from a caregiver, staff members can push theirs to alert other nearby staffers and security personnel that they need assistance. That way the staff member can remain in place when rendering aid to residents or remotely call for help in the unlikely event they are unable to move themselves.
In the event a staff member or resident is unable to reach their emergency button, or a visitor needs assistance, facilities also can implement stationary emergency call devices that connect to the facility’s RTLS. This stationary device has a pull cord or button press to signal an emergency. Emergency buttons have been around for decades, but the benefit of more modern devices is there’s no cabling required, and if moved, an RTLS can automatically update to indicate its new location.
Managing Staff and Visitors
The Future of Older Adult Living
The data provided can help leadership teams make better decisions that lead to improved safety and health outcomes. Systems can easily be expanded over the years to add different use cases and, one day, tell us not only where we are at but also where we are going—by helping us predict potential issues before they happen.
Perhaps most important, it can be a tough process transitioning into a full-time adult living care community, but RTLS coupled with IoT technology can provide comfort for residents and their families. A location system for older adult living gives residents the independence and dignity they deserve while also ensuring their safety and security. Family members can rest assured knowing that their loved ones are safe and receiving quality care.
For more information on location technology in older adult living communities, CenTrak is hosting a joint webinar with Direct Supply on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.
— Deric Blattenberger is a product manager at CenTrak, a provider of location-based IoT solutions for the health care industry. CenTrak has been named a visionary in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for indoor location services and recently added contact tracing capabilities to its TruView platform for senior living communities.