In 2021, AARP’s AgeTech Collaborative™ Testbed partner ThriveWell Tech set out to test whether sensor-based monitoring technology could impact quality of life and health while reducing hospitalizations for seniors enrolled in the federal Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).
The results of the Asbury Caring Network pilot, while limited to a small number of pilot participants over a six-month period, showed promise.
Albright LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly), an affiliate of Asbury Communities, selected its Lycoming, Pennsylvania, LIFE Center as the location for the Caring Network pilot, with grant funding provided by Wesley, Inc.
Twelve seniors who are enrolled in Albright LIFE, age 70-plus, with multiple and chronic health issues — including diabetes, congestive heart failure and cognitive decline — volunteered to participate.
The first step in the pilot was establishing a baseline of behavior and habits for each participant, which occurred over the first two weeks.
Utilizing remote monitoring technology similar to the sensors offered by AgeTech Collaborative™ participants Tellus and Xandar Kardian, ThriveWell Tech installed five sensors from StackCare at each participant’s entrance, refrigerator door, bedroom, bathroom, and living room. The sensors monitored room motion, room temperature, and door movement, and could be programmed to send alerts. StackCare also offers programmable alerts that can trigger emergency calls, which were not implemented in this pilot.
It was important to the LIFE Center’s care team that they be able to analyze patterns over a period of time, not just receive real-time or daily updates. To accomplish this, the ThriveWell Tech team created a data lake to capture the continuously streaming data. That data was amalgamated into behavior heat maps.
By analyzing these behavioral patterns, data helped spotlight abnormal behavior, setting trigger points for follow-up by the Albright LIFE care team.
Specifically, the sensors’ output of door motion, room movement and room temperature provided metrics that enabled the care team to predict potential health and safety issues, including fall risk, medication non-compliance, urinary tract infections, and wandering patterns that are indicative of dementia.
Albright LIFE Center site managers and nursing staff reviewed data each morning during their Interdisciplinary Team Care meetings. At first, the team viewed data retroactively to determine why a clinical issue had occurred. But as teams became more comfortable with the platforms, they used it proactively to head off clinical issues and, in some cases, hospitalizations.
Real-life examples include:
- Intervening with a pilot subject experiencing falls to recommend that they move their sleeping quarters to the first-floor living room.
- Heading off an emergency room visit by determining that signs of a fever were actually the result of a participant’s use of space heaters.
- Reducing the risk of urinary tract infection in a participant who was not taking their diuretic medication as prescribed.
The result of this pilot study shows that the installation of sensory technology can positively affect health outcomes.
With an average hospital stay without specialty care cost of $13,800, and an average emergency room visit cost of $1,000, the pilot also showed promise for how this technology could support the capitated payment system utilized by the PACE program.
The adoption and success of in-home monitoring, wearables and other supportive technologies are critical to our aging population. The most recent studies show that between 80% and 90% of seniors plan to age in place. Inadequate public funding for aging support services and homes that are not aging-friendly present a significant safety challenge. With a surging senior population — one out of every five U.S. citizens will be of retirement age by 2030 — technology will play a significant role in more safely aging at home.
The Asbury Caring Network pilot is one step in the journey of making the case for technology’s efficacy in this area. Plans are underway to continue and expand the pilot.