The following five excerpts are from HTS' recent nationwide email communication sent to the Senior Living sector regarding advances in wireless emergency call (e-call) and why it's time to rethink what an e-call system can do for residents and staff.
Single-Platform Solution (Part 1 of 5)
Historically, resident safety systems have operated as independent "silos" within senior living communities. The "silo mentality" is known as an attitude found in some organizations that occurs when several departments or groups do not share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same company. A silo mentality reduces efficiency and can be a contributing factor to a failing corporate culture.
The same concept can be applied to systems (e-call/resident safety in this case), where independent systems (nurse call, wireless emergency call, wander management, access control) are either unable to share or consolidate information, are cobbled together in a way that does not provide resident or staff identification and metrics, or can only achieve some modest integration by adding expensive third-party middleware and related hardware. As a result, senior living providers are hamstrung in their pursuit of quality care, accountability, and operational efficiency.
The alternative to limited or no integration is a seamless, single-platform solution which utilizes the same communications network, protocols, and server/software applications. This shared, modular design simplifies installation and maintenance and allows staff and management access to event reporting and information for all levels of care from a single application. The result is a unified single-platform system providing greater specificity and avoiding the headaches resulting from integrating systems from multiple manufacturers. Selecting a single-platform system is an investment in a fully-integrated technology. If you are thinking of a new system, consider rethinking the advantages of a single-platform solution.
Digital versus Analog E-Call (Part 2 of 5)
Digital is quickly replacing analog throughout the technology world. Televisions, cellular telephones, video, photography, and music are a few well-known examples of such technologies. The reason for the format switch is simple: Digital offers many advantages over analog, such as quality, reliability, capacity and speed.
Many technologies on which Senior Living communities depend now utilize digital architecture including security systems, access control, CCTV, VoIP telephones, nurse call and wireless emergency call (e-call), such as our Nevatec RFID e-call system. Specifically, as it relates to wireless e-call, digital is superior to analog because it offers faster data transfer, increased signal range, and it is less susceptible to radio frequency interference from other electronic or mechanical equipment. In addition, no expensive middleware or analog to digital converters are required to interface with VoIP telephone or card access control systems. Digital also opens the door to two-way data communications with caregivers, where alarms can be notified, acknowledged and reported within the system, whereas analog systems are limited to one-way notification through their analog switch.
Analog is going away. At some point, components will no longer be available. Selecting a digital e-call system is an investment in a forward-looking technology. If you are thinking of a new system, consider rethinking the advantages of digital.
On-Premise versus Cloud-Based E-Call (Part 3 of 5)
Cloud computing, commonly referred to as "the cloud", is a form of computing where an off-site centralized server provides data storage and online access to applications. The cloud symbol was used to represent the Internet and Virtual Private Networks in the early 1990s, and its reference was subsequently applied to what we now know as cloud computing. Commodity applications such as email are relatively easy to move to the cloud, whereas enterprise and other critical business applications are a more complex (challenging) migration and involve consideration of both a facilities' operations and its potential for exposure to liability.
For wireless emergency call (e-call) and other critical life safety systems in the Senior Living sector, a few vendors have moved their monitoring and/or reporting applications and data storage to the cloud. The question to think about is whether an on-premise or cloud-based computing e-call system is best suited for your community.
Perhaps the most important benefit afforded to Senior Living by an on-premise e-call solution is control - control over the performance and accessibility of their e-call application and its data, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing their residents' safety, as it relates to e-call, cannot be compromised by anything outside their area of control. The other scale-tipping benefit for on-premise e-call is its cost savings over cloud-based systems' recurring software service fees. Regarding hardware costs, while both types of systems require a standard server PC to operate their applications or function as a gateway to the cloud, some systems (including our Nevatec system) can operate on a community's existing server hardware.
If considering an e-call system based on cloud-based computing and data storage, Senior Living professionals should carefully evaluate the vendor's infrastructure reliability and redundancy measures. A cloud-based e-call system could be rendered inoperable or without access to its historical event information if the provider were to experience a service interruption. The vendor's reputation and ongoing viability are also important cloud considerations; the worst-case scenario would be a situation where a vendor ceases operations and your community is left without an on-premise alternative. And, whenever the cloud comes into play, data security and privacy concerns arise; the vendor must demonstrate it has established thorough measures and policies to prevent a data breach. Interestingly, a 2014 IDG Enterprise cloud computing survey revealed that 45 percent of cloud-based projects are eventually brought back in-house, with security concerns being the leading factor driving the decision.
Selecting an on-premise e-call system is a low-risk investment in a reliable and secure technology. If you are thinking of a new system, consider rethinking the advantages of an on-premise solution.
Resident Location Accuracy (Part 4 of 5)
Every second counts when it comes to locating a resident who has transmitted a help call from a wearable alert device. The ability for Senior Living residents to summon help from areas outside of their apartment with its wall-mounted alert stations became possible with the advent of wireless emergency call (e-call) systems. This has resulted in a paradigm shift in the way Senior Living manages mobility and independence. Today, residents and their families have come to expect staff will respond to a call for help or a fall from anywhere in the building or campus -- in seconds, not minutes.
A key to faster response time is location accuracy. An e-call systems's locating capability needs to be engineered in a way which avoids signal bleed through floors and ceilings, ensuring floor-level location specificity. In order to accomplish this, the system must analyze more than simply a signal's strength, since this can be distorted by walls and other objects.
By incorporating additional variables, such as the quality of the signal and its transit time, the system's positioning algorithms paint a clearer picture of resident location and avoids the problem of searching for residents on the wrong floor. Short of implementing a full RTLS (real time location system) application, which costs far more than an e-call system, achieving floor specificity and precise locating is possible with e-call systems which utilize RFID (radio frequency identification), including our Nevatec platform. Locating can be taken a step further, providing room-level location specificity by supplementing the campus wireless RFID network with room-based wireless devices. On a related note, if you are wondering whether GPS (global positioning system) locating might work for your community, keep in mind that because this is a satellite-based technology, it will not be able to provide in-building location or floor specificity.
Selecting a resident safety system with precise locating is an investment in the care of your residents and the ongoing satisfaction of all parties involved - residents, family members, and staff. If you are thinking of a new system, consider rethinking the advantages of a precise locating solution.
Big Data E-Call (Part 5 of 5)
Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data - so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.(1) Wireless emergency call (e-call) systems also produce data, and although all e-call systems collect basic alarm-related data, RFID-based e-call systems have the ability to produce infinitely greater amounts of data - big data. Continuously transmitting and receiving data across its advanced wireless reader network, RFID e-call systems capture, process and store information on the status, location and connectivity of its fixed and mobile devices. The resulting warehouse of e-call data enables users to compile useful and actionable reports and performance metrics which can be leveraged to shape a community's operations and drive its performance.
One example of how additional e-call data can transform the way a community operates is the ability to track staff presence with a resident. Typically, e-call systems track only two points of an alarm event - call placed and call cancelled. Data-driven RFID e-call systems, including our Nevatec platform, can track additional points along the alarm event continuum. This might include the time the call was accepted and by which staff member, the time staff arrived to assist the resident, and the time staff actually departed the room. By documenting time spent with a resident, or staff presence, an e-call system can provide documentation for instances where staff response time or the level or care are under review. Or, it would offer justification for modifying a resident's care plan if staff presence is more frequent or lengthy than expected.
In the coming year, there will be growing opportunities for using our Nevatec e-call big data for additional care-related purposes, such as tracking activity levels, dealing with safety issues associated with cognitive decline, as well as general wellness monitoring. More data helps identify trends and problem areas; more data leads to better decisions; and more data results in greater operational efficiency, higher quality of care and reduced risk. The real issue is not that you are acquiring a greater amount of data with a RFID e-call system, rather it's what you do with the data that is important. If you are thinking of a new system, consider rethinking the advantages of a big-data solution.