New Developments in AI Technology Offer a Glimpse of the Future of Long Term Care: Balancing Resident Care with Safety in Light of Necessary Pandemic Precautions

Written by: Laura Hall Cartner, Esq. and Anthony Petrozza, Esq.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted long term care facility residents and staff. While most of us take pause to reflect on the sheer tragedy of the effect this virus has had on our elder population, those working in long term healthcare remain continually vigilant in their pursuit to find a balance between the need to protect our most vulnerable population from COVID-19 with the need to provide care to residents. A new development in patient monitoring technology from the minds at MIT may offer an enormous leap in the right direction with regards to perfecting that balance.

The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT recently revealed a new software that is illustrative of the major role AI will likely play in providing care for long term care residents that is both adequate and safe in the COVID-era. The new technology, named RF-Diary, has already been proven to be more effective than video monitoring at tracking an individual’s daily activities.

Recent publications on the potential healthcare industry uses of RF-Diary indicate that the technology can be used to accurately and safely monitor an individual’s movement, activities, and vital signs in a confined space. The technology works by monitoring an individual’s activities based on how wireless signals reflect off of them. The data collected can then be summarized in a written report for caregivers to analyze. The program was “trained” in how to recognize certain activities by being fed a large amount of wireless signals of individuals doing daily routines in certain spaces (i.e. cooking dinner in an apartment). Over time RF-Diary was able to apply what it had learned to track the activities of individuals in new environments.

Using this technology, a provider would be able to monitor a resident’s vitals, and receive live updates on whether or not they have done certain necessary activities such as remembering to eat dinner or carry out personal hygiene measures. As minds like those at MIT that developed RF-Diary begin to embrace the needs of long term care providers the technology will certainly become more and more effective at limiting unnecessary interaction that may result in the spread of COVID-19 while still allowing providers to give our elder population appropriate levels of care and attention.

The development of RF-Diary comes at a time when the healthcare industry is being encouraged to move toward remote monitoring technology to protect patients from possible exposure to COVID-19. The FDA has recently lessened restrictions on developers of remote monitoring technology in an effort to bring more technology to the market with the goal of creating safer healthcare environments through limited person-to-person interaction. There are indications that the people at MIT behind RF-Diary see bringing the product to market as the next step.

In situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic, evolving technologies like RF-Diary may become the answer to ensuring the effective provision of care while simultaneously limiting resident exposure.

MIT wireless system can monitor what care facility residents are doing while preserving privacy

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