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The Internet of Things (IoT) Intends to Transform Senior Care

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerJanuary 10, 2018
The Internet of Things (IoT) Intends to Transform Senior Care

In this day and age where innovative technology is a part of our everyday lives and there is an app for almost everything, should we consider integrating the “Internet of Things” within our senior care system?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to be a game changer for the healthcare industry – eldercare especially – by providing a proactive approach to caring for seniors. Close your eyes and imagine a senior care community that can:

  • Access a current analysis of a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen levels or any other medical data, specific to the patient and their condition
  • Prevent a fall or medication error before it occurs
  • Share information and interact with everyone in a patient’s circle of care in real time
  • Respond to a patient’s needs, such as playing calming music to combat anxiety, based on a barely-detectable increase in heart rate

According to IoT and senior care experts, the Internet of Things can do just that.

The Internet of Things

The IoT is a complex notion to grasp. Forbes published an article entitled “A Simple Explanation of ‘The Internet of Things,” which aims to strip away the intrigue surrounding IoT:

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“Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines… wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”

By creating a giant network of connected ‘things’ that can communicate with each other (and with us), IoT could revolutionize the lens in which we see the world, including the way we deliver care and support to seniors.

The Purpose of the Internet of Things

To break this concept down even further, the Forbes article highlights specific examples of how IoT could impact a person’s day-to-day life:

  1. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you?
  2. What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more?
  3. What if the wearable device you used in the workplace could tell you when and where you were most active and productive and shared that information with other devices that you used while working?

It is predicted that by the year 2020, over 26 billion devices will be interconnected. By analyzing data and receiving information, the Internet of Things has the potential to improve productivity and efficiency in all aspects of life.

The Internet of Things and Senior Care

With all this technical information in mind, the question must be asked: Is the healthcare field really a place for the Internet of Things? Won’t it dehumanize senior care and replace personal connection with statistical analyses?

Not so, claims an article by McKnight’s Senior Living, entitled “5 Ways the Internet of Things Will Humanize Senior Care.” The article argues that utilizing IoT will create a more patient-centered and personal approach that focuses on:

  • Activity
  • Mental/Physical Health
  • Rest
  • Safety
  • Togetherness

When it comes to IoT, another area of concern for the healthcare industry revolves around patient privacy, security and information sharing. A patient’s health information is incredibly sensitive and must be well-protected; as well the sharing of data from device to device must be encrypted to prevent any meddling or viruses. It’s not clear whether the top-notch digital security needed to prevent a breach (like the Ransomware attacks last summer that targeted U.S. hospitals) is currently affordable or available for the healthcare industry.

While the concept of integrating the Internet of Things into care for seniors is intriguing, the question remains as to whether the senior care industry will be able to capitalize on the benefits IoT offers while still ensuring security, privacy and the connection from one human being to another that’s critical to a senior’s quality of life.

Are you hopeful that the IoT could transform senior care? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler

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