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Marrying Technology with Aging

March 21, 2011
by Charlene Marietti
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How best to incorporate technology into the high touch/low tech business environments of aging?

The big question of how best to marry technology to a high touch/low tech business was tackled at an Environments for Aging (EFA) conference roundtable moderated by Jon Sanford, M. Arch, director of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at the College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology held on March 21 in Atlanta. The discussion was lively and sprinkled with concerns, admonitions, and positive outlooks.

Despite the well-documented benefits of incorporating technology such as electronic health records (EHR), which can consolidate care delivery and provide medication management within a typically multiple drug use population and sensors to support seniors and their desires to be independent and maintain as high a quality of life as possible, are a multitude of technologies that can improve quality of life among the aging population. However, adoption has its hurdles.

Chief among concerns of the care provider, architect, and interior design attendees was staff. It is a serious problem, care providers noted. One such provider reports selective recruiting and hiring practices that target on tech savvy individuals.

But, some attendees worried, does hiring a person with tech skills mean that the industry will lose workers who can relate to the residents? Not at all, was the group's consensus. Technology will never replace the person-to-person care.

Another care provider has found success in training staff with an approach more commonly seen in large, acute care facilities. "Too often we use technology experts to do the training," he said. His strategy is to deliver training by a personable, bright, and technologically competent ER physician who has dedicated time to train staff at multiple facilities across a large geographic region.

One takeaway from the roundtable is that implemented technologies must be perceived as valuable to the user. And this will often require educating end-users, be they staff, residents, or members of a looser-knit senior community. Without understanding the value and how the technology can help them and support their goals to improve their quality of life, both staff and the elderly are likely to resist adoption and use.




Great post and I would only like to add that when the value is explained, it is done in layperson terms of their age group.

I am "IT", not a healthcare professional, but am working to assist doctors. . . with strategic IT / business solutions and "language" can be a barrier even between professions as well as compounded with diverse age groups.

Too often we dismiss the elderly as unwilling and unable to learn new ways of doing things. But it's pretty clear that most of themand others of all ageswill do things differently if they see how they benefit personally.

That makes it our challenge to take the time to bring patients of all ages and abilities into buying-in to 'what works best' for themand that includes education on the use of appropriate technology.

Charlene, Very timely post. After my dad's recent hospitalization (covered in my Ethics blog post), I experienced an outpouring of empathy from peers deeply involved in their own parents' healthcare needs and experience.

I think your call and the industry's call for education regarding tech is prudent and necessary. When the behavior of resisting adoption is seen, there is often a significant component of design failure. Most of my octogenarian parents (~5) have no problems with well designed technology.

Interesting post Charlene. This reminds me of a presentation that Beverley H. Johnson, President and CEO, Institute for Patient- and Family-Centered Care, Bethesda, Md., made last week at the National Palliative Care Summit last week in Philly. She notes that IT needs top be utilized appropriately to support optimal patient care, performance measurement, patient education, and enhanced communication to form a Patient- and Family-Centered Care model.

See some slides from her presentation: