Long-term care options have come to incorporate multiple forms of technology.

Long-Term Care Is Changing, and Not Completely By Choice

The Workplace Today Industry Insights & Trends

Long-term care options are shifting into the home because of multiple forces in technology, including the Internet of Medical Things.

The idea of aging at home is preferable to many older adults, especially given the reputation that some nursing homes get. That’s why news of long-term care shifting into the home may sound like a life-improving benefit brought on by modern healthcare. However, there’s much more you should know.

Medicaid Pushing People Home

Take what’s going on with Medicaid, for example: Half of all states now provide long-term care benefits in the form of managed care, and 13 have made it a requirement that older adults receive their care in that form. These shifts are changing the face of long-term care, much because of consumer demand, but also because of a Supreme Court decision and a series of federal waiver programs that granted states the leeway to make changes in their respective initiatives.

But those changes are also adding up and having a real impact. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals that 2013 marks the first time Medicaid’s long-term supports and services (LTSS) programs actually spent less on nursing home care than they did on home and community based services. The majority of states are also expanding, or planning to expand their home and community-based care programs. This means fewer older adults and disabled young people in nursing homes, and more at home.

Technology Is Changing Our Options

Medicaid or not, the very concept of long-term home care has changed, and that’s largely because of technological advancements, such as telemedicine, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and wearables.

Telemedicine is broadly defined as the practice of medicine from a distance with the help of technology. It means that some modes of care that were previously only available in hospitals or doctors offices are now accessible at home. Everything from general checkups to eye exams can now be performed at home with the help of mobile devices, sophisticated sensors and other technology.

Smart homes are being equipped with sensor-based systems that detect falls and alert friends and loved-ones, and wearables can be used to monitor a range of basic vital signs. The IoMT, though, could pose the most potential for change. People 65 and older made up 14.7 percent of the population in 2014 and that number is expected to climb to 20 percent. This age group represents a continuous upward force on healthcare costs, which, in turn, puts even more value on aging-in-place initiatives as well as any effort that shortens hospital stays.

The connected medical devices that were mentioned above can be generally useless if they’re difficult to read or nothing happens with the information. Cloud-based platforms, however, aggregate and integrate data from multiple sources and generate a more complete view of the patient (one of the key benefits of the IoMT). This new view allows physicians to be more proactive about patient care and take action before a condition appears or worsens.

Multiple Focuses for Leaders

Leaders in the long-term care sector will have to take a multi-fold perspective in the coming years, especially as national administrative changes mean uncertainty for many areas of out healthcare systems.

Informed leaders will want to pay attention to technological developments to control costs, but also to the rising cost and rarity of long-term care insurance which will influence accessibility for various patient populations. Most importantly, a focus on value-based care that centers around a positive patient experience will be a reliable guide as the long-term care sector develops.

Megan Williams
Megan Williams

Megan is a B2B healthcare writer with 10 years experience in hospital consulting, over a decade's work in online content creation, and an MBA.