Big Data

Welcome to the Future of Senior Living: Big Data Has Arrived

A crystal ball that can see the future. While no such thing has been known to exist outside of the silver screen, one senior living provider is summoning the influence of big data analytics to do just that when it comes to their residents’ health and well-being.

The ability to interpret information from millions of data points has led industries like financial services and auto manufacturing to adopt the use of big data as a means to increase efficiencies in their operations.

Those same implications also hold true for healthcare and the senior living space, though operators have been slower to adopt big data strategies, especially as they apply to widespread operations.

Recognizing the power of big data and its potential to predict when someone might be at risk of a health event, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society (ELGSS) has partnered with IBM (NYSE: IBM) to better manage services for residents and clients enrolled in its LivingWell@Home program.

“LivingWell@Home enables us to leverage information and engage a person in their wellness before they’re chronically ill,” Sherrie Petersen, director of LivingWell@Home, tells SHN.

LivingWell@Home encompasses three major technologies: sensor technology provided by Healthsense, telehealth by Honeywell HomMed and Philips’ Lifeline personal emergency response system.

As the largest non-profit, multi-site senior living provider in the U.S. with a network spanning 18,462 units in 240 locations across 24 states, Good Samaritan plans to use IBM’s Big Data and Analytics software to consolidate its sensor information along with clinical and operational data on its residents and patients.

With vast amounts of information coming in from the various technologies, interpreting the data as a whole is almost like playing a game of Clue, says Petersen.

That’s where the need arose to develop a dashboard to centralize the data pouring in, thus integrating each of the technologies and leading to the creation of the LivingWell@Home program.

“You can take clues from each of the technology’s data sets to solve the mystery behind the emerging changes of an individual’s health status,” Petersen says. “This, coupled with the relationship with the staff at the LivingWell Center, leads to earlier detection of health concerns that may have proven to be detrimental and more costly to treat without LivingWell@Home.”

Technology within the LivingWell@Home program can detect how active residents are, their sleep patterns, or if they’ve had a fall by highlighting critical risk factors as well as deterioration in personal condition. Data is gathered 24/7 and delivered securely online to a licensed nurse who reviews the information daily via Good Samaritan’s integrated dashboard.

Staff at Good Samaritan communities can then check for changes in a person’s normal routine that might indicate a developing medical condition or other safety concern, enabling them to address issues in real time before they progress into more serious problems.

Predicting the future with big data

Over time, Good Samaritan plans to add IBM predictive analytics to allow clinicians to predict when someone might be at risk for a health event and take steps to intervene before the event actually occurs.

The concept of wiring multi-faceted solutions that provide technologies like remote monitoring, telehealth and electronic health records all within a single platform have begun to catch on in the senior care space, though not many are backed by the power of big data.

When looking at the long heralded demographic boom that approaches the senior care industry both in the U.S. and abroad, as well as an anticipated shortage of health care providers amid rising costs, technologies that monitor and have the potential to prevent serious health conditions from further developing are the future of healthcare, says IBM Spokesman Dr. Michael Weiner.

“If you take the ability to predict into the future and carry it into other projects, you can see where healthcare has potential,” Weiner told SHN. “It’s phenomenal what’s being done in using modern technology and analytics to drive higher levels of care.”

Having invested approximately $24 billion in big data and analytics since 2005 through acquisition as well as research and development, IBM has established the world’s largest portfolio focused on those solutions.

Most recently, the global tech giant has already made significant progress on predictive analytics, collaborating earlier this year with Roanoke, Va. health system Carilion Clinic and Verona, Wisc.-based Epic Systems Corp.

By scouring about a million patient health records from Carilion Clinic, IBM was able to identify 8,500 patients at risk for congestive heart failure at an 85% accuracy rate, as part of a pilot program designed for early intervention.

“Now we’re predicting who’s going to develop congestive heart failure in the next year and a half,” Weiner says.

When it comes down to it, the initiatives are all part of the overarching mission to improve care in the least expensive setting, whether it’s using predictive technologies to prevent re-hospitalizations or using them to keep patients living securely and independently at home.

At your place, or ours

Programs that strive to improve health outcomes while simultaneously lowering costs can help an organization move upstream in the healthcare landscape, such as Good Samaritan’s LivingWell@Home.

Looking ahead, the company also plans to use IBM software for its bundled payments and Client Advocate program. In the future, Good Samaritan looks to use analytics for various diagnoses-related groups, modes of care and other services to help it define additional cost effective care solutions that aim to prevent hospital readmissions and other potentially negative outcomes.

Initially funded by an $8.1 million grant provided by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in June 2010, the LivingWell@Home program has evolved over the years, growing from a small-scale test bed of only 25 clients to roughly 1,580 participants across five states.

Today, the program provides services to 98 Good Samaritan sites, which include the company’s senior housing properties, as well as the ancillary services it provides, including home care and adult day care services.

At the crux of what Good Samaritan is striving to accomplish as it continues to build upon the LivingWell@Home platform lies the coinage “at your place, or ours,” says Petersen, meaning a senior doesn’t necessarily have to live at a Good Samaritan community to enroll in the program.

“We’re on the tip of the iceberg,” Petersen says. “We can leverage technology to serve more individuals and provide better healthcare at lower cost, while also improving quality outcomes and resident satisfaction. It’s a win-win.”

Written by Jason Oliva