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When Elderly Patients Fall, Connected Health Can Help

October 3, 2019
Meredith Wagner

Falls are a major cause of injuries, particularly in older adults.  In fact, they are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for senior citizens, and the death rate from falls is increasing, growing 31% from 2007-2016.The cost of elderly falls is projected to exceed $67 billion next year.  With the elderly population expected to double by 2060, becoming nearly a quarter of the population, the number of falls and associated costs will likely also increase, adding to the burden already placed on the healthcare system.

 

 

While some patients have access to individual round-the-clock monitoring, most hospitals, rehab facilities, elderly living centers, home healthcare providers, and other organizations simply don’t have the resources to provide that level of continuous care.

 

 

Connected health technologies may be able to help by using a combination of remote patient monitoring and telehealth solutions to detect and even prevent falls, and to provide immediate response when needed.  Whether patients are in healthcare facilities, retirement communities, or at home, connected health can help monitor their conditions and enable appropriate and timely communication and coordination between physicians, caregivers, patients, and family members.

 

 

Fall Detection

Video monitoring can be used to give caregivers a constant view of patients – especially those with a high risk of falling.  Hospitals, rehab facilities, and other similar providers can reduce the burden on staff by enabling a single staff member to monitor many patients at once.  As artificial intelligence technology evolves, it may be able to replace humans to more efficiently identify falls, further reducing the cost of video monitoring.  One of the benefits of video is its real-time nature, which may help staff intervene before falls actually happen.

 

Connected consumer-grade and medical devices can leverage Remote Patient Monitoring (“RPM”) solutions to monitor and track patient activity and vital signs. Using data from accelerometers and other sensors that monitor location, motion, balance, gait, and other information, they can help identify falls and whether patients have resumed movement to determine the most appropriate course of action.  In addition to personal consumer devices like smartphones and watches, purpose-built medical devices, such as footwear and canes or other assistive devices with embedded sensors can deliver this information.

 

Fall Prevention

Fall prevention is largely related to understanding behavior and vital signs that lead up to falls.  As patterns emerge and analytics and algorithms are able to determine likely cause and effect correlations, RPM systems can be set to monitor for specific thresholds to identify when falls are imminent or probable.  Data from accelerometers, pressure sensors, heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, blood oxygen and sugar meters, ECGs, and other devices may be able to help determine correlations between variations in conditions and falls and other incidents requiring care.  Advanced AI techniques may also be able to analyze video monitoring feeds to provide real-time alerts when patients are likely to fall, increasing the availability of video monitoring to a greater number of patients.

 

Immediate Response

One of the benefits of RPM solutions is when falls are identified, caregivers, physicians, and family members can be alerted and can immediately intervene to prevent falls or administer appropriate care.  Text messages can be automated to alert physicians, caregivers, and family members.  Upon arrival at a patient’s location, caregivers can then initiate virtual care sessions with appropriate providers to update them and determine if additional treatment, in-person visits, or even hospitalization is required.  Immediate alerts can reduce response times, allowing faster care for injured patients, and potentially reducing risk of complications if patients aren’t able to get up on their own, such as if the fall was the result of a stroke, dementia, failure to adhere to treatment, or other existing conditions.

 

 

There are many existing use cases for remote patient monitoring and virtual care technologies to treat a range of health conditions.  Using these solutions to identify and prevent falls and to enable faster care when falls happen will not only help physicians provide better care to their elderly patients. It will also help make it easier to treat a growing elderly population, while allowing patients to remain more independent and age in place.

 

 

To find out more about using connected health solutions to deliver better patient care, connect with us here.