Long-Term Care Conference Focuses on Technology, Government's Role

Article excerpt

New applications of technology, such as simple sensors now readily available, could prevent up to 70% of falls among elders. Social networking technology similar to Facebook could provide stimulating and watchful new communication opportunities to elders and their caregivers. Home monitoring may indicate real-time developments in older adults by tracking behavioral and biological changes currently undetectable between medical appointments.

The potential benefits of these and other exciting uses of technology for long-term care clients were explored by Intel Corporation chairman Craig Barrett and David Walker, Peter G. Peterson Foundation president and Intel CEO, during a plenary session at October's annual meeting of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), in Philadelphia. The pair called on the nonprofit association to de-emphasize lobbying efforts to improve Medicare and Medicaid payment codes and, instead, take a firmer leadership role in developing new standards and models of long-term care practice and technology use.

The pair drew a huge authence at the AAHSA conference, attended by nearly 8,960 long-term care providers. A dramatic corporate speaker, Barrett urged AAHSA members to "band together" to develop solutions for the delivery of long-term care instead of waiting for government help. "We have to act expeditiously; we can't wait five years and hope there is a bailout of the healthcare industry, just like mere's a bailout of investment banks or financial institutions," he stated.

'A FAIRY TALE'

He asserted that federal plans for developing a national health-information network to connect patient records across all platforms "is a fairy tale." Long-term care providers should not wait for large government initiatives, said the technology innovator.

Barrett has been instrumental in developing collaborative consortiums, such as the Technology CEO Council and the Continua Alliance, each with a large corporate membership and focused on developing new healthcare products. He called on AAHSA to act more forcefully through its Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST), a coalition he helped create. CAST currendy includes 400 companies focused on developing, evaluating and adopting emerging technologies in long-term care.

Later, in a press briefing, cast chairman Eric Dishman, Intel director of product research and innovation, explained that Intel and other member companies decided to house the program within AAHSA, after forming CAST in 2002, because the association represents nonprofit providers, who take a "holistic approach to life services."

A SPECTRUM OF NEEDS

CAST's technology participants focused on long-term care providers, Dishman said, because these providers work on a spectrum of elders' functional needs, such as transportation, meals, medication management and assistance with chronic diseases. "I think it is exactly the bandwidth that the AAHSA community and the long-term care field has and, quite frankly, the rest of healthcare needs to take on."

Dishman clarified, "We're not asking the AAHSA community to become technologists; we're saying, 'You're an expert on care paradigms and how to do quality care.' Lay it out for us, and we'll learn from you about what technology will be best." Adding that CAST doesn't want AAHSA providers to worry about the technology or the policy issues, he encouraged them to "imagine and design a social-care system that works for the best quality of life for all of those involved-the family members, me senior residents, the staff. And figure out a business model, a care model that works. Then let the technology industry supply technologies that help fill those gaps."

Barrett emphasized that CAST could play a prime role in developing and coordinating common platforms of shared information. Proceeding with common technological platforms is critical, he said, because technologies to enhance independent living won't emerge if companies create proprietary approaches: "You'll all just have a hodge-podge of very expensive proprietary solutions. …