About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.

 How can the healthcare industry use technology to improve in-home care for American seniors?

Essay response by Dana Drake, Duke University

Patient-centered care has become the new standard in healthcare. Physicians no longer instruct patients on one plan of action; rather they collaborate, discuss options and develop a plan of care together with shared input. Because of this new movement in healthcare, communication technology has become essential. Education and information sharing are invaluable to patients, yet time-consuming for physicians to manage. Technology bridges this divide and provides easy to use, hands on, individualized information from a caring provider to their patient.

Using technology, a patient can currently manage numerous tasks related to their health, all from home in a secure environment.  They can receive reminders of appointments, confirm appoints, review details of their bill immediately and email with any questions or concerns.  For the patient, they want an accurate answer as quickly as possible. For a physician, replying to twenty emails vs. returning twenty patient phone calls is an incredible time-saver. This allows them to make better use of resources, enables them to respond quickly and better meet patient needs.

In the future, technology will continue to improve healthcare outcomes for seniors.  One day, patients will be able to log in to a secure HIPPA-protected site to review their lab results, such as blood work or biopsies.  Perhaps they will be able to link to accurate educational information supplied by their trusted physician regarding their condition and treatment options (as opposed to googling misinformation from unreputable sites).  Using the information, they will be able to educate themselves about options to manage common chronic conditions, such as The Dash Diet for management of hypertension or recent research on medication for Type II Diabetes Mellitus.  Seniors can be engaged in the process of learning in order to have a well-informed conversation with their physician regarding next steps in treatment. Physicians will be able to make electronic recommendations regarding lifestyle changes or medication management with the click of a button.

When patients research their own options and help develop their own treatment plan, it will increase their buy-in on the plan and improve their adherence to medication management and lifestyle choices.  This has benefits for physicians as well.  As healthcare continues to change, insurance such as Medicaid and Medicare will hold the provider responsible for the improvement of a patient’s condition and can refuse payment if there is no progress. Physicians will be required to see more patients in a shorter amount of time and can only implement change with patient buy-in.

Using technology, physicians will be able to create a system that in a few clicks they can send health information, recent research, and treatment options to their in-home patients. Perhaps in-home patients will be able to track their health goals and progress and record data, such as daily blood pressure levels that they can review at their next appointment. An early alert system may be in place for senior patients at risk for decline in home, such as a change in trends of daily glucose levels.  When caught earlier and communicated to the physician using an electronic system, we can prevent a longer-term,damaging changes in healthcare trends for our in-home seniors. Technology will be essential to monitoring in-home patients and improving care. It is the the future of healthcare and the key to making all the coming changes work together for the benefit of both physicians and their happy, healthy patients.

About Dana

Dana is currently enrolled in the undergraduate nursing program at Duke University in Durham, NC and will graduate in April of 2015.

Senior Advisor's knowledgeable writers blog about senior care services, trends and more.


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