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9 Connected Health Recommendations to Help Seniors Aging in Place

Telehealth, mHealth, broadband adoption and remote monitoring technology figure prominently in a new report from a White House advisory council.

By Eric Wicklund

- A White House advisory council is calling on the federal government to support connected health technologies and platforms for America’s aging population.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), in an 80-page report issued this week, makes a number of recommendations that would support telehealth expansion and reimbursement, broadband access for seniors, remote patient monitoring, mHealth innovation and even more sophisticated wheelchairs.

“The average age of the American population is increasing, and Americans want to continue to have active and productive lives as they age,” the PCAST report, titled Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age,” states. “Technology has played an important role in increasing life expectancy, but it also has an important role to play in increasing the quality of life, by maximizing Americans’ ability to function in their later years.”

The report cites several examples of connected health innovation, including OATS, a non-profit dedicated to establishing “broadband adoption ecosystems” for seniors; Project ECHO, a New Mexico-based remote care management program that covers several chronic conditions and now operates in 20 states and several countries; and TigerPlace, a senior living facility overseen by the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing that employs innovative smart home and remote patient monitoring technology.

The report includes 12 recommendation, nine of which relate to connected health technology. Those nine recommendations are as follows:

  1. Federal action – The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should create a one-year task force to study technologies that can help America’s senior population. In addition, a standing public-private council should be formed to advise the Health and Human Services Department on “sector-wide ways to advance technology in the service of improving quality of life for older people.”
  2. Internet engagement – All seniors should have broadband Internet access, as set forth in a national plan developed by the Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) and HHs’ Administration for Community Living. Seniors and school-aged children should also be included in any telecommunications projects overseen by the Federal Communications Commission.
  3. Remote monitoring – The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) should develop guidelines for monitoring technologies that help seniors age in place, and ensure that privacy and security concerns are met and don’t hinder innovations or adoption.
  4. mHealth innovation – The National Institutes of Health, HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), National Science Foundation, Veterans Administration, Department of Defense and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) should support research in a wide range of new technologies and platforms, including home monitoring, robotics, advanced mobility technologies, cognitive training and communications technology used in emergency situations.
  5. Emergency response – The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security should develop communications capabilities to reach isolated and vulnerable seniors in times of emergency. In addition, HHS, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should ensure that medical records are accessible “whenever and wherever a patient may appear.” Finally, FEMA, CMS and the ASPR should make sure medical device interfaces are consistent and interoperable at all times and wherever they’re needed.
  6. Telehealth regulation – HHS should work with the Federation of State Medical Boards and National Governors Association to ensure that telehealth providers have the right licenses to operate across state lines. CMS should also support its Innovation Center “to advance payment policies that support innovation in telehealth.”
  7. Smart home design – HHS should work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure accessibility standards and promote technological innovation for independent living, especially in retirement communities.
  8. Product design – The Consumer Product Safety Commission should work with the AARP and other groups to ensure senior-friendly product development, including technology and medical supplies.
  9. Assistive and robotic technologies – CMS should develop new support programs to help seniors access “higher-functioning products.” In addition, the VHA, DOD, DARPA and HHS should lead the effort – and create a 10-year roadmap – to develop better wheelchairs.

The report is the council’s second, following an October 2015 document that focused on technologies for hearing assistance.


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