Mobile technology is disrupting the traditional models within the aged care sector and has the potential to enhance aged care services more than many may realise, writes Adele Beachley.
As more aged care facilities open across Australia, there is a clear focus on quality of life. Homes are being built in desirable locations among picturesque surroundings close to restaurants and golf courses. More thought and consideration is going into their design and development. Yet, the technology piece is only emerging, despite its potential to raise the bar on the level of care being delivered.
In the near term, there is an opportunity for service providers to differentiate themselves by leveraging technology and mobility. Soon enough, it will simply be expected. The seamless expansion of consumer technology into our daily lives means the expectations of aged care residents will continue to grow, requiring further integration of technology into daily care routines, support and living situations. There are now hospitals being designed that are completely automated. In my view, it should be the same for retirement villages.
Technology can improve residents’ day-to-day lives
Tasks that many perceive as simple become difficult for those in care, but older people can be given the tools to reinstate their autonomy and gain more independence in their day-to-day lives. Where physical mobility is limited, one in-room tablet-based control system can allow residents to manage room lighting and temperature control, open and close the curtains and reposition the bed, and even reach out to caregivers and doctors via video-conferencing. Applications can prompt patients to take their vitals and submit their personalised data for review – a virtual check-up.
GPS-enabled wearable devices or smartphones with geo-fencing capabilities can monitor the movements of residents – triggering a series of alerts should they wander out of the set parameters. This is a practical application of mobile technology for personal protection, which can enhance security and bring peace of mind to residents and their families.
Another example of the potential of technology is the use of an app designed specifically for people with dementia. It plays music from a selection of songs the person would have listened to when they were between the ages of 13 and 25. The hope is that the familiar songs will awaken synaptic brain activity, potentially helping unlock memories of the past to allow for moments of lucidity and recognition of their surroundings and loved ones.
This is an incredibly innovative and beautiful way of making technology work to improve the human experience, and is just one example of the potential of what technology can deliver to change lives for the better.
How to embrace technology and mobility solutions in aged care
- Keep your goals in focus
For those only starting to explore the potential of mobile technology, keep a laser focus on what you are trying to achieve. The technology you implement must add value to your business, not just be technology for technology’s sake.
- Keep ease of use top of mind
You must keep the technology user front of mind whether that’ss your employees or your clients. If the devices and applications aren’t easy to use, then buy-in will suffer.
- Make sure your infrastructure is solid
While you need to provide consumer-grade devices to ensure they work out of the box, you must also ensure an enterprise-grade IT infrastructure is in place to protect privacy and security, to enable specific permissions and controls on how data is accessed, to be able to set priority levels and lock down stolen or lost devices. This is to effectively, efficiently, seamlessly and securely manage these devices across platforms and device types.
What is unique about the current environment is we now have retirement living clients who are familiar with mobile devices and can use them easily. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the potential of mobility with an audience who knows how to use the technology and wants to play a much more active role in healthcare delivery.
IT managers and CIOs of aged care facilities that have started digitising are already realising immediate benefits such as cost savings, improved employee satisfaction as staff members are less stressed, and more personalised resident experiences.
While some aged service providers may be nervous about taking the wrong first step, it’s time to embrace the future of mobile technology and the possibilities for both staff and residents.
Adele Beachley is managing director for APAC at SOTI, an enterprise mobility management provider.
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