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Technology Design Innovations

[The following is republished with permission from ADVANCE for Long-Term Care Management Magazine. This article was originally published in the September/October 2011 issue of ADVANCE.]

Person-centered care has become a design principle for architects and engineers in the senior care market. PCC strives to provide a home-like environment where residents care for each other and receive dignified professional attention, while contributing to the greater community. What many people don’t realize is that wireless technology can greatly enhance the ability to seamlessly implement PCC. It influences the way people can live in retirement communities and the way those respective communities provide care to their residents.

FREEDOM OF WIRELESS

One of the trends we are recognizing is the creation of a wireless network of sensors throughout the community which is monitored with server-based software. A wireless sensor may be a pull-cord station mounted in a restroom, a contact monitoring whether a door is open or closed, or an infrared beam notifying staff when someone passes a certain point in the unit. Each of these sensors communicates wirelessly to a server computer that manages the entire network.

The advances relative to these sensor networks have provided designers with many opportunities to create a home-like environment and enhance the PCC concept. For instance, the need for institutional looking corridor lighting has been minimized with use of wireless emergency call systems. When a resident is in need of help, the alarm is sent directly to the appropriate caregiver, instead of providing an audible alarm in the corridor or at the nurse’s station. This alarm is received on a wireless pager or telephone and provides the caregiver with the information required to respond to the call. In some cases, if the caregiver needs more assistance, she can call a colleague using that same wireless telephone.

Wireless technology has also allowed the designer to incorporate a de-centralized floor plan concept. With wireless charting stations, wireless telephones and the wireless sensor network, caregivers can spend more time with residents instead of behind a centralized nurse’s station. In many cases, we are seeing the elimination of the nurse’s station in favor of a staff office where supplies can be stored.

LOCATIONING

Another example of how wireless technology is affecting PCC is in locationing. This is the ability of the wireless network to locate a specific alarming sensor within a covered area – indoors or out. Each resident has a wireless call-for-help push-button sensor, and can move about the community with the knowledge that if they need help, someone will be able to quickly locate them. This particular technology is developing rapidly in the seniors market.

The server-based software aspect of these sensor networks is powerful as well. With sensors spread throughout the community, the software captures all of the events that happen with that network. Examples of events would be a pull-cord station being activated, a caregiver responding to an emergency call, or a door opening or closing. If a pull cord station is activated, the software captures the date, time, who placed the call, where the call was placed, when the call was cleared and, in some cases, who responded to the call. This data can then be analyzed with standard or customized reports to provide insight into the performance of the community.

Measuring caregiver performance, along with resident health and the ability to convey that measurement in a productive way to residents, family and staff has been a challenge over the years. The database of information collected by the software provides proficiency in reporting to the community, which in turn provides a more informed and dignified approach to care.

Technology is increasingly becoming a vital tool for providers to care for their residents. Wireless technology, specifically, has enhanced the way we provide person-centered care.

– Michael J. Sanzotti, RCDD, LEED AP

Michael is Reese Engineering’s Director of Technology Solutions, a Registered Communications Distribution Designer, a and LEED Accredited Professional. Please feel free to contact Michael for further details regarding the above information.