2018-09-26 / Columns

Artificial Intelligence can revolutionize elder care


As the population ages, assisted living communities and nursing homes around the country are having a more difficult time recruiting workers to provide care for the residents. The employee shortage is fast becoming a crisis, too.

In Texas, certified nurses aides have a turnover rate approaching 97 percent, and an average turnover rate of 90 percent for registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses.

In New Jersey, caregivers in elder care facilities typically earn low wages, an average starting salary of $10.50 an hour vs. $11.50 at Costco or $11 at Walmart.

In Pennsylvania, the aging of baby boomers is expected to mean 31 million jobs will be available and another 24 million will be created.

Making those jobs more attractive by relieving them of some of the burdensome administrative tasks is one way the use of artificial intelligence can help, according to Philip Regenie, CEO of Zanthion, a tech company building AI systems for the healthcare industry.

“The way that AI in assisted living and senior care demonstrates itself is by looking at a set of parameters that characterize an environment and then using those parameters to predict something,” he said in a recent interview. “An example of that is using a bed exit or a bed alarm, nurse-call system, the data that’s associated to the lights coming on and going off in a room, the data that’s associated to how often they exit the bed, the data that’s associated to their heart rate and their oxygen intake and how quickly they move. All of these are put into a table basically, that is then analyzed for a large number of people.”

By analyzing these data points using artificial intelligence and predicting patient movements, Regenie said, one California hospital has reduced patient falls by 39 percent.

“Putting sensors in place measuring health in real time that creates a system that allows us to predict behavior and need,” Regenie explained. “The majority of what AI will do is be able to assess things and predict things in real time.”

With the medical costs from falls approaching $40-billion this year, Regenie said being able to get a caregiver to intervene with a patient before a fall, or getting them into more protective clothing, can be a critical factor in protecting patients and cutting costs.

Regenie also thinks it makes more sense to develop better models for allowing seniors to age in place, rather than have them move into care facilities. But he also notes that resistance to sharing medical data because of privacy issues may slow down the advance of digital solutions.

“We’re so worried about the privacy because of insurance and health care costs that we’re not actually being able to use the data that’s available to us in a way that maximizes its potential,” he said. “If we could get over this construct of thinking that the data is going to be used to harm us, and start thinking about how the data can help us, we would be much better off.”

With the wider availability of monitoring devices and data capture, Regenie thinks that more than half of the people aging into the senior category will remain in their homes over the next 10 years. He sees self-driving car services adding technology to assist seniors in getting into and out of vehicles, and “automated systems for helping seniors off the floor.”

“Right now we have 75 percent of the consumption of our emergency services going to serve that 14 percent, which are the seniors, and they’re doing it oftentimes to just help them off the floor, where they don’t have to take them to the hospital,” he said. “Having services and systems in place that manage the communities will go a long way towards keeping seniors aging in place gracefully.”

You can hear a longer audio interview with Philip Regenie at http://bit.ly/CSchmooze.

Email your questions about artificial intelligence or healthcare technology to steve@compuschmooze.com. Follow me on Twitter @PodcastSteve. 

Return to top