Dustin Wright, founder of Disability Cocoon
Choosing the right support option for the individual
Technology advances in the last decade have had an unprecedented, positive impact on the daily lives of most Americans; however, the world of support for Americans with disabilities has remained largely untouched by the use of emerging technologies. That is poised to change.
Many disability service providers are looking to technology to help address many of our industry’s most pressing challenges, such as meeting increasing demands for customized independent living supports with a shrinking workforce. Similarly, families and self-advocates are seeking modern day solutions to aid in independence.
Remote supports and home monitoring services are one solution becoming more prevalent, and increasingly more sought after, within the disability services landscape. When looking to implement remote support into a care plan, individuals and agencies will find two options, commercially available products and services (the DIY route) or partnering with one of the nation’s current remote support technology vendors.
Most consumer home monitoring and professional remote support systems have four primary components:
- Various wireless sensors
- Two-way communication platforms
- Home control/automation devices
These devices can be used to provide passive oversight and activity tracking to monitor health and quality of services. They can also be tied to a monitoring center staffed by trained professionals providing real-time oversight and support to the individual, if desired.
DIY monitoring solutions are great when professionals and/or family members need to passively track activities in the home or have more insight into activities in the home. DIY monitoring can be used to evaluate needs, get activity trend data, and alert if assistance might be needed of a non-serious nature.
PRO monitoring solutions can be used when real-time oversight is necessary to assure the individual’s health and safety needs are met. Pro monitoring is able to proactively respond to situations to prevent escalation (i.e. prompt to move the towel away from the burner on the stove to prevent a fire). Pro monitoring is typically used to assist individuals who may require real-time oversight and coaching to live more independently.
Some agencies and families have chosen the DIY route of implementing various monitoring devices and technologies. There are many commercially available options which can provide live video feeds, track changes in activities and the environment, allow remote communications, monitor home security, and control appliances remotely.
Commercially available options, such as Google’s Nest thermostat and cameras, Simply Safe’s home security monitoring system, Skype, and Facetime are great solutions providing increased independence for individuals. These off the shelf systems typically connect to a cloud based dashboard through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in the individuals’ homes.
Many, but not all, commercially available devices require a cellular device with a data plan to operate, which is not currently funded by most Medicaid Waiver programs. Some states are exploring unique solutions to this potential barrier with CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Some solutions include options to allow state Waiver programs to pay for broadband internet services within their Assistive Technology service definitions. States are requiring the hardware provider and/or state assure the internet is used only for the purpose of transmission of data associated with the AT and/or remote supports system. In other words, the internet can’t be used for entertainment purposes.
Many families and agencies choose to partner with a remote support and technology vendor available nationally to take some of the guesswork out of the equation. Technology vendors have experts available to assist support teams in identifying the appropriate technologies to meet the desired outcomes, secure funding, provide guidance on implementation strategies, perform installation of the devices, monitor the status and functioning of the devices, and most importantly provide professional monitoring and support to the person with a disability.
The technology vendor can reduce research time associated with finding the right technology to meet the individual’s needs. Their knowledge of what has worked for others in the past with similar needs will help assure the right technology solution is identified. They can also work with your organization, your state Medicaid agency, and other funding sources to secure payment for the technology solutions.
Implementation and ongoing monitoring is a crucial part in the success of the use of any technology. Technology experts can assist the support team in crafting an implementation strategy which best meets the individual’s and agency’s goals without the headache of trial and error; which can cause technology burnout (this can slow or prevent adoption of other technology solutions in the future).
The biggest downside of Pro monitoring solutions are the costs associated with paying another agency to evaluate needs, customize a solution, install the equipment, provide the monitoring, and provide ongoing support of the system. These benefits do come with additional costs, although are being covered by most State’s Medicaid Waiver programs.
Finding the Right Support
Both DIY and Pro monitoring solutions can be used for various populations and various needs. DIY solutions may work best for people who are more technically savvy and don’t mind “tinkering” with the tech to optimize, troubleshoot, and go through some trial and error. Pro monitoring solutions are best for people who either don’t have the expertise and/or time to go the DIY route, or in situations where support needs require a more intensive solution. It is not uncommon for individuals/families and providers to begin with a few DIY items to familiarize themselves with technology, and then move into professional options as needs/wants change or as they begin to see the benefits and desire additional tracking/support.
Whichever route is chosen, it is important to first assess the individuals needs, wants, and capabilities prior to selecting the technology and to check in often to ensure the technology is still meeting current needs. Once a technology is selected, backup and response plans should be discussed to account for any what-if scenarios.
To get your questions answered concerning remote monitoring technology, TRC Mentors, like Dustin, are available via the TRC Mentor Network. Connect with a Mentor today.
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Disability Cocoon is a disability technology catalyst organization. We find and promote disability technology solutions, to inspire and foster increased independence.
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Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.