How Technology Can Improve Care and Quality of Life

by Published On: Sep 24, 2012
AST Report Image

Aging services technologies (AST) can help older adults and people with disabilities achieve and maintain maximum physical function, live as independently as possible and participate in and contribute to society. That’s the conclusion of a new study jointly authored by CAST and NORC, a research organization at the University of Chicago.

“Even as the aging of the baby-boomer generation presents a new era of challenges related to public health needs and health-care system pressures, greater availability and adoption of ASTs holds great potential to help address these challenges,” says the report.

ARRA Mandate to Study Technology

The Aging Services Technology Study was mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and its findings are included in a special Report to Congress. That report provides a detailed discussion of ASTs related to 8 care issues facing older people and people with disabilities. 

It also identifies barriers to the development and adoption of ASTs and recommends strategies to address those barriers.

In particular, the report emphasizes the importance of integrating ASTs and Health Information Technology (HIT) as a way to enhance the quality of clinical care and decision making.

“Recent initiatives and policies encouraging the adoption of HIT, coupled with a growing awareness of the importance of both HIT and ASTs, suggest that the next few years may bring new opportunities to leverage these resources for the collective benefit of all stakeholders,” predicts the report.

How ASTs Impact 8 Care Issues

The study assessed ASTs in 8 care categories:

  • Falls: Some fall detection devices are more effective and reliable than others; they generate alarms that can spur interventions, including preventive ones, by providers and caregivers.
  • Chronic Disease Management: Evidence supporting the efficacy of these technologies is generally good but varies by device, health condition and operational model.
  • Medication Management: Electronic prescribing, computerized physician order entry and other ASTs have been shown to reduce costly medication errors. 
  • Cognitive Impairments: ASTs that detect cognitive impairments are effective in most cases. Those focusing on cognition-related intervention vary in effectiveness. 
  • Sensory Impairments: These ASTs benefit people with acquired hearing and vision impairments as well as those with developmental disabilities. 
  • Depression: These ASTs address the challenges associated with diagnosis, lack of access to mental-health professionals, perceived stigma, loss of motivation and social isolation. 
  • Mobility Impairments: Wheeled mobility equipment and devices that improve balance and walking are well-recognized as safe and effective. Other technologies are emerging. 
  • Functional Decline: Passive monitoring ASTs like sensor-based home monitoring have the most robust testing and support in the literature. Evidence is more limited and mixed for other devices that monitor functional decline. 

Barriers to Aging Services Technology Adoption, Use and Development

Lack of awareness among consumers and providers represents an important barrier to the development and adoption of ASTs, according to the CAST-NORC report. In addition, use of ASTs may be limited by concerns about their effectiveness and usability as well as interoperability issues and impact on workflow.

The report suggests potential strategies to overcome these barriers, including:

  • Disseminating evidence that supports AST adoption.
  • Increasing education of providers and consumers.
  • Using privacy and security measures more effectively.
  • Testing and developing technology to maximize usability.
  • Addressing interoperability issue
  • Fostering partnerships among technology companies, aging services providers and researchers. 
  • Identifying and promoting business models that support the design and evaluation of these technologies. 


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