Assessing I.T.’s Role in Care for the Elderly

Information technology can play an important role in improving care for those with chronic illnesses, particularly the elderly, according to a new report from the Center for Aging Services Technologies.The center is a unit of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging in Washington. Its report, “State of Technology in Aging Services,” offers a vision of long-term care that includes use of integrated I.T. systems to support the health, safety and social connections of elderly persons living in their own homes.“Lack of awareness and usability challenges, both perceived and real, on the part of older consumers tops a list of barriers that stand in the way of information management related technology adoption in aging services,” according to the report. “Equally troubling is a lack of consensus regarding the value of technology in ‘aging in place’ care, the absence of adequate financial and other incentives to encourage investment in this technology, and critical gaps in connectivity and interoperability among existing technologies and information systems.”Not only are consumers unaware of the I.T. tools available to them, but so too are many providers of home health care, report authors contend. “Most studies are small, done by technology vendors and not well publicized,” says Majd Alwan, Ph.D., co-author and director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies. “They don’t want to share effectiveness information with competitors.”The reports, he adds, primarily are marketing tools, because if a vendor proves a technology, they fear they will be spending money to aid the marketing initiatives of other vendors.“What CAST is trying to do is overcome this attitude and convince technology providers it is in all of our interests to publish results and make them broadly available.”If the value of I.T. for treating chronic conditions at home is proven, that can compel insurance companies to reimburse for use of the technologies, Alwan says.CAST also believes independent research firms, universities, foundations, industry consortiums and the government should fund research to demonstrate and publicize the value of I.T., Alwan says. “I believe the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and AHRQ may be in the best position to fund such research.”(c) 2008 Health Data Management and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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