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Four Potential Benefits of Using Virtual Care Technology in Residential Care Environments

In a recent guest column in McKnight’s Senior Living, Lisa McCracken, senior vice president of senior living research and development at Ziegler, an investment bank with a healthcare focus, wrote about virtual care and its potential for improving outcomes and experiences in senior living and aging services. She began by talking about how the market for technology-enabled solutions in this care sector has evolved considerably over the space of a decade. Rather than just thinking of it as an added feature that may be desirable but not essential, McCracken insisted on “the need to shift our thinking and view virtual care as a potential solution to a broad set of operational and strategic challenges that we confront on a daily basis.” McCracken listed several possible benefits of using virtual care. The advantages include:

Lessening Staffing Issues

We are all aware of common residential care problems with provider shortages, after-hour and weekend staffing levels, and competency shortfalls. A virtual care scenario can bring expert provider assistant to a resident or patient who needs it, even if long distance, and regardless of the time the need occurs.

Reduce the Use of Hospital and Especially ER Visits

In some cases a trip to the ER is the automatic response to any serious care need among the residential care population. This misuse of the healthcare system can be expensive, as well as unnecessarily jarring for the patient in question. Using virtual care may make that trip to the hospital unnecessary, an outcome that is often better for everyone involved.

Support Aging in Place

Virtual care may be able to provide an adequate extra amount of support that enables older adults to remain in their homes or at a lower level of supportive residential care for longer. McCracken offered that “virtual care offerings such as remote monitoring and wearable solutions can achieve this objective by allowing consumers to live independently while knowing that providers or loved ones will be immediately contacted” if necessary. McCracken also points out the positive effect such solutions can have on patient engagement and improved care coordination, especially for chronic conditions.

Improve Care in Rural Areas

Many rural areas of the United States have significant shortages in terms of providers and convenient care environments. McCracken singles out virtual care technology as a “solution for difficult-to-reach populations [that] can improve access to care and enhance social engagement among those who live in rural communities or are homebound for a significant portion of the time.”

McCracken closes by remind us that “as providers, we need to continue to challenge ourselves to evaluate where technology can present ideas and remedies to some of our most pressing issues.”

All quotations are taken from:

McCracken, Lisa, “Reframing the role of virtual care in senior living,” McKnight’s Senior Living, August 13, 2018. Retrieved at https://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/guest-columns/reframing-the-role-of-virtual-care-in-senior-living/article/787920/.

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