NEWS

Wireless Tech Helps Keep Seniors in Assisted Living Safe

An older white adult female showing a wearable medical alert device to a female presenting caretaker of color.

sturti/Getty

Key Takeaways

  • A new wearable technology designed for residents in senior living communities merges patient activity and nurse call data with electronic medical records.
  • With an integrated system in place, care teams can look for trends in a resident’s status and customize treatment plans.

Traditional nurse call systems in senior living communities alert staff that a resident needs help, but they provide no additional information. Residents are also unable to request assistance if they can’t reach the call button.

Additionally, none of the information from the call buttons is available in the resident’s electronic medical record (EMR), meaning that it can’t be used for data tracking or care planning purposes.

Intrex, a software development company, wanted to create a solution that would go beyond the basic systems that most facilities use to keep residents safe.

That’s why they created the Rythmos system, which offers several features that other alert systems do not—including that its data can be integrated with the EMR.

Intrex collaborated with Wirepas, a leader in wireless technology, to make the system portable and functional even without outside internet access.

How Rythmos Is Different

Rythmos offers several features that traditional nurse call systems don’t.

Wearability

Users wear the Rythmos alert device around their wrist or neck like a watch or necklace. This means a resident can ask for help wherever they are.

Making the device wearable takes away the problem of not being able to request assistance in an emergency because a call bell is out of reach.

Rythmos’ alert systems are also GPS-enabled, allowing community caregivers to track the resident’s precise location at any time, both inside and outside of the community.

Continuous GPS tracking is particularly beneficial for people living with dementia who may wander from the safety of the community.

“Communities know exactly where residents are and when they need help,” Ted Tzirimis, chief technology officer at Intrex, told Verywell. “Residents are always accounted for.”

Since Rythmos tracks where a patient has been, some communities have been using Rythmos data during the COVID-19 pandemic to help with contact tracing.

Wireless and Battery Operated

Rythmos has some attributes that allow communities to continue monitoring residents even in the presence of external factors that would usually disrupt service.

Since the Rythmos system is wireless, it’s not dependent on a functioning internet or cellular network.

All aspects of the system are also battery-operated, which means the device and its components will keep working even if there is a power outage.

“The Wirepas network itself doesn’t rely on cellular connectivity. We’re in the remotest place in Iowa, and we don’t have any issues,” said Tzirimis. “This system can withstand thunderstorms, snowstorms, and power outages.”

Alan Sillito

You don’t need to be a wireless expert to use our system.

— Alan Sillito

Upgrades to the system also do not interrupt the wearer’s daily activities, which Tzirimis said can disorient or disturb some residents.

“With our system, you can push changes across the network wirelessly,” Alan Sillito, senior director of global key accounts at Wirepas told Verywell. “There will be some time when the network needs to update itself, but they will do it at times when it’s less critical.”

Sillito added that Wirepas is also user-friendly for facility staff who may not have experience with wireless technology. “You don’t need to be a wireless expert to use our system.”

Activity Monitoring and Fall Detection

Rythmos monitors residents’ daily activity, including how much time they spend up and moving around.

Sensors in the room tell staff when a resident is walking around or when they leave their living quarters. The system will also alert staff if a resident is inactive for a preset period of time.

“Rythmos can track activity changes, such as an increase or decrease in movement, or more or fewer button presses,” said Tzirimis. “For instance, a resident may not report multiple trips to the bathroom, which could signal the beginning of a urinary tract infection.”

Ted Tzirimis

A big thing for a lot of communities is making sure that care is responsive.

— Ted Tzirimis

Rythmos can also detect a fall and immediately notify staff if it happens. The Rythmos algorithm also accounts for different wear styles, higher or lower sensitivity levels, and periods of stillness after a fall.

“Our fall detection does not rely upon the users to self-report,” said Tzirimis. “We encourage residents to press for help if they do fall, but if the system detects a fall, it still sends an alert to staff to check on the patient.”

Staff Tracking and Responding

“A big thing for a lot of communities is making sure that care is responsive,” said Tzirimis, and Rythmos strives to achieve that goal.

When a resident activates the alert system, staff get a notification on a handheld mobile device. The staff member can then connect with the resident and assess the situation.

“Probably 60% to 70% of calls for help are non-urgent,” said Tzirimis, but others require immediate action.

Once the situation has been assessed, staff can verify that someone has responded to the resident and addressed their needs. When the encounter is complete, the Rythmos system then stores all the data for reference.

“Caregivers can document what the purpose of that trip was,” said Tzirimis. “They can tell if a patient is utilizing more than necessary care, or having more medical needs.”

Integration

The data collected by the Rythmos system transfers over to the patient’s electronic medical record. Each community can select the data that they want to sync. Communities can also use Rythmos’ web platform to view each resident’s data.

Care teams can view trends for each resident, such as how many falls they’ve had, the frequency of their calls for help, and their activity levels. Taking note of trends is helpful for individualizing each resident’s care plan.

Currently, most Rythmos users live in senior living communities, but some are still living at home and get home health or hospice services.

For these patients, the Rythmos system integrates with other portable health monitoring devices they might be using, like scales, blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, thermometers, glucose meters, and handheld EKG monitors.

Healthcare providers can use data from compatible devices to provide telehealth services. For example, a nurse can monitor for sudden weight gain in a patient with heart failure, which could indicate fluid overload.

“The data Rythmos collects gives caregivers a foundation of data to have better conversations with residents and families,” said Tzirimis. “We can evaluate if the resident has any modifications in medications or therapy that could be causing a change in condition. Then we’re able to pair that data without having cameras in the room or needing someone to check on that person all the time.”

What This Means For You

If someone you love resides in a senior living community, integrated nurse call systems can help the staff identify trends in their status and develop a more personalized plan of care.

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