The regulatory environment in which we find ourselves, with its emphasis on cost-effectiveness, necessitates more efficient spending on the part of service providers who draw money from the state. In the I/DD world, these cost savings are often difficult to achieve without sacrificing quality of care. Technology has emerged as a way to avoid this dilemma. Using sophisticated algorithms, the Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) is able to identify at-risk groups within a provider’s population. This means dollars can be spent in prevention of health problems, as opposed to treatment of them down the line. But just identifying the at-risk populations and detailing what they are at risk for does not itself prevent health issues from occurring. Technology has provided solutions here as well. By taking a look at some of the categories of the HRST (as told by HRS President Dr. Craig Escude), we’ll survey assistive technology solutions already working toward addressing those issues.
In a Tech:Huddle with Disability Cocoon, Dr. Escude spoke about the particular categories HRST looks at, one of which was “Frequency of Service.” This included “professional healthcare services, ER visits, and hospitalizations.” People have already created technology systems to address this aspect of care. For example, StationMD allows doctors to visit a patient remotely in order to determine whether an ER visit is really necessary for a given health event. Providers who use StationMD report cost savings due to reduced hospitalizations and ER/Urgent Care visits. The potential combined efficacy of implementing both the HRST and StationMD to address any identified “Frequency of Service” risks is astounding and demonstrates how technology can operate on many different levels to address the needs of people with disabilities.
Another HRST category was “Functional Status” which included the subcategories “Eating, Ambulation, Transfer, Toileting, Clinical Issues.” To aid with eating, there are AliMed’s Freedom Plates and Bowls (https://www.alimed.com/freedom-suction-plates-and-bowls.html?pid=67801&gclid=Cj0KCQjw5MLrBRClARIsAPG0WGyPDv1PYV6HihrdAuNjviY-r0uf47-iY783mKGrVSBX2PxXfLLFRHgaAmVsEALw_wcB) and comparable plate-ware that resist spills, tipping, and sliding. There are even more complex tools such as Liftware spoons like the Level, which keeps the bowl of the spoon steady even when the handle is turned at odd angles (https://www.liftware.com/level/). To take another subcategory from “Functional Status” Transfer is another area in which technology has begun to address needs. Lifts like the Drive Medical Auto Bath Lifter (https://www.drivemedical.com/us/en/products/bathroom-safety/bath-lifts/bellavita-auto-bath-lifter/p/445-1) and the LiftUp Raizer (https://www.liftup.us/products/raizer/) allow for more independence for the individuals but preserve and enhance safety at the same time. Just another demonstration of how effective screening combined with ingenious preventative measures can improve quality of life and reduce unnecessary costs.
A third category in the HRST, “Safety,” is concerned with Falls and Injury. Tech systems like SafelyYou (https://www.safely-you.com/) are designed to lower fall rates and reduce the need for emergency services. Their system uses AI to determine whether a fall has occurred based solely on a two-dimensional representation (the video) of the event.
Finally, we would also be remiss if we did not at least mention the indirect benefits of improving health and increasing independence, happiness. The ability to be more independent thanks to a piece of technology improves well-being beyond what is commonly quantified. It could mean a little pep in their step, or more smiling during the day. The possibility they could feel more autonomous and self-actualized with a life-improving technological solution should be recognized as part of its important benefits.
All in all, HRST can help identify risk-areas in populations, and assistive technology can be a hefty part of the toolkit when it comes to addressing those risks to effectively manage health.