Similar to other nations, the United States faces a critical challenge in dealing with an aging population that has unprecedented life expectancies. Emerging technologies offer the hope of allowing older adults to remain in their homes longer by empowering individuals to manage daily activities while dealing with chronic health conditions and age-related diseases. These technologies increasingly target a home environment whereby on a regular basis an individual can obtain assistance in performing daily living activities, stay connected to family and friends, manage medication, and be monitored for health-related changes. As important as these assistive technologies are for individuals and families, their potential for positively impacting the United States economy by changing the model of healthcare delivery is equally huge.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Technology Assistance Act: Congress enacted the Technology Related Assistance Act of 1988 (P.L.100-407) to expand the availability of assistive technology services and devices to people with disabilities.
Smart Home Technology: Devices used in a home environment to perform complex tasks that otherwise would be performed by the individual. They facilitate independent living by providing automated support of daily activities, security, building performance, and telecommunications.
Aging in Place: Older adults remain in their homes and communities through the support of technology and assisted living services.
Patient Safety: Institute of Medicine defines patient safety as “freedom from accidental injury;” conversely, error constitutes “the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim.” (Kohn, Corrigan, & Donaldson, 2000).
Healthcare Technology: This term is typically used to encompass all technologies that are used in the healthcare field inclusive of both medical personnel and patients.
Proactive Computing: Applications that are designed to anticipate an individual’s needs and to take action to meet the needs on their behalf (taken from http://www.Intel.com’s Web site on Health Research and Innovation).
Impairment Categories: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.hhs.gov) provides three categories of impairments with varying assistive technology needs. The Mildly Impaired category (e.g., mild arthritis) benefits from assistive technologies that enhance independent living. This may include special devices such as grab bars and modified cooking utensils. The second category, Moderately Impaired, include those who are functionally impaired in several daily living activities. For example, a person with arthritis may also have diabetes with circulation problems. Assistive technology supplements other types of support systems (e.g., home caregiver) in order to promote independent living. The third category, Severely Impaired, probably will benefit the most from emerging technologies. These individuals have multiple impairments that impact daily living.
Assistive Technology: A device or system supporting an individual in performing a task that otherwise could not be done, or increases the ease and safety with which it is done.