Amanda Spence, RN, poses with Moxi at ChristianaCare. Five of these robot devices are helping to make deliveries in hospital units, freeing up nurses for more direct patient care activities. (Photo courtesy of Megan McGuriman/ChristianaCare)
When Intermountain Healthcare’s call centers became overwhelmed in March 2020 with people asking about COVID-19 symptoms, the team turned to artificial intelligence, the Washington Post reported. Specifically, a chatbot — a computer program designed to simulate human conversation called Scout. The technology allowed people to describe their symptoms while the chatbot matched their responses to possible diagnoses to ask relevant follow-up questions or suggest actions for the patient to take.
It’s one of several technologies that were greatly accelerated during the pandemic and continue to be gaining ground in the face of an ongoing pandemic, an aging population, shrinking caregivers, health care worker burnout and resignations, and other factors.
Journalists can find interesting stories by investigating the various uses of chatbots, robots, and other virtual caregiver technologies being trialed or used by health systems, senior homes or others. But beyond the wow factor, it’s always good to maintain a critical eye to ask questions about costs, ease of use, accuracy, and if the intended audiences like them or find them helpful.
As the U.S. enters what experts predict may be the most severe months yet of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of infections and deaths among residents and workers in nursing homes is rapidly rising.
Much of the nation is experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and perhaps no situation is more concerning than that of nursing home residents and workers. A report released Dec. 10 by two senators ― Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Finance Committee, and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), ranking member of the Special Committee on Aging ― indicate an already-dire situation in nursing homes is worsening. Continue reading
The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all under tremendous stress. Social isolation, loneliness, fear of getting sick, an uncertain economy … the list goes on. According to a mid-July Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, 53% of adults in the United States reported negative mental health effects due to concern and anxiety about the novel coronavirus.
One demographic at especially high risk of mental health issues is older adults, due to their higher probability of contracting the disease, known mental and physical health consequences of isolating, and existing co-morbidities. “The share of older adults (ages 65 and up) reporting negative mental health impacts has increased since March,” according to KFF. Continue reading
Photo: Amanda Mills/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Long before the novel coronavirus ever surfaced, millions of older adults struggled with food insecurity. The COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded their ability to obtain healthy food or eat balanced, nutritious meals. One reason: older adults who rely on senior centers for a daily hot meal and important socialization find themselves shut in, unable to access important federal or state nutrition programs, fearful of trips to the supermarket, or without adequate financial and other means to do so.
While food banks and home meal delivery volunteers are trying to pick up some of the slack, some vulnerable older adults find themselves standing in long lines to pick up groceries or a sandwich. Continue reading
Covering mental health issues among older adults first means understanding the differences between issues of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and the effect of cognitive decline. Each issue may affect a person or several may be occurring simultaneously. Don’t interchange the terms however, because they’re not the same condition.
At last week’s Journalism Workshop on Aging and Health in Los Angeles, panelists stressed the importance of getting it right. You can be alone, but not lonely, or socially isolated. You can be socially isolated but not lonely. You can be either, or both. Continue reading