Imagine a monitoring system that tracks patients’ vital signs in real-time - including their heartbeat and breathing - without requiring them to wear pendants or other devices. Imagine it could also notify healthcare professionals the second a patient falls, without any cameras in the room. Imagine how quickly responders could act in emergencies with this kind of continuous care, and how many lives could be saved.
With AI, we no longer need to imagine. These systems have become possible. This technology has already been used to revolutionize driver safety, and is now showing great potential in the realm of elder care.
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The AI revolution in healthcare
With the advent of ChatGPT in the autumn of 2022, most people gained an awareness of how Large Language Models (LLMs) can generate copy - and even poetry - in just a few seconds. Generative AI can also handle customers’ phone calls, respond to their emails, and schedule appointments. In this way, AI promises to alleviate the burden of these routine administrative tasks for medical facilities and healthcare providers.
Yet, AI has many other potential applications in the healthcare space. For example, researchers are learning to use AI to create personalized 3D models of individual patients’ anatomy from their medical imaging scans, while others are employing it to diagnose strokes or monitor the onset of neurological disorders. Pharmaceutical companies can use them to tease out patterns in clinical trial data. Pharmacies can use them to identify possible problems in individuals’ lists of medications.
These advances promise to hasten diagnosis, help medical teams make better treatment decisions, and increase the odds of advantageous outcomes for patients. In this way, AI propels medical care forward, but that’s not all. AI can also improve care for people as they age, as well as their quality of life.
How cutting-edge AI technology can improve aging
AI has advanced to such a point that placing a sensor in a room can enable it to monitor occupants’ vital signs in real-time. No camera is required, nor are wearable devices.
For today’s sensors to achieve medical-grade accuracy, they must be so precise to detect the slightest movement - down to the range of 0.2 millimeters. With this level of precision, they can deliver medical-grade information on the current state of patients' health. A single sensor can pick up the person’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and heart rate variability from the opposite side of the room. They can even tell if someone’s gait has become unsteady.
Armed with ultra-precise sensors that can detect movement down to the threshold of 0.2 mm, AI can also tell when someone falls. This is especially important, as falls can have serious consequences for the elderly - especially patients on blood thinners. These AI systems not only sense that someone has fallen, but also alert caregivers or staff to come to their rescue.
As every healthcare professional knows, time is of the essence when it comes to responding to such incidents. While human staff can only place their attention effectively on one thing at a time, AIs are indefatigable sentinels. They also react with lightning speed, raising the alarm before a patient could even hit their panic button. Indeed, the patient need never hit the panic button at all, since these systems identify problems on their own and respond immediately, alerting caregivers or facility staff via their smartphone or other electronic device.
With AI on the job, everyone experiences more peace of mind.
Other benefits of AI technology for the elderly
These cutting-edge AI systems can also track people’s movements over time and discern daily patterns, enabling caregivers or residents themselves to set up smart-home automations that provide assistance or promote comfort. AI can also spot anomalies in daily patterns, which are sometimes the first signs that someone might be feeling off.
As this previous example illustrates, these AI and sensor systems go beyond providing information about residents’ physical health and behavior. They also derive insights into how residents feel emotionally. As such, they are a valuable tool to promote people’s overall wellbeing.
What’s more, these AI-enabled sensor suites are invisible and preserve residents’ dignity. Occupants live their lives in care facilities or age in place in their own homes, without having to feel like they’ve been numbered and tagged. Staff will no longer have to waste time persuading the reluctant to wear their pendant or accept the unblinking eye of a camera.
Meanwhile, AI’s continuous, real-time monitoring means medical professionals no longer need to do time-consuming manual checks of patients. Patients’ vital signs are automatically logged, eliminating the possibility of human error. AI never skips a patient or forgets to note a number.
This means staff can spend their time doing what they do best: focusing their attention on connecting with the residents, building community, and completing their higher-order responsibilities. As a result, their feelings of job satisfaction improve.
For their part, leadership can streamline operations and cut unnecessary costs. The result is a more sustainable, profitable organization.
AI also heightens security, since these systems notice everyone in the room. If someone is in the space who isn’t authorized to be there, the AI can send caretakers an immediate notification.
The future of elder care
Medical-grade sensors strive to be so small people can’t even notice them until they’re pointed out. They only use one Watt of power, don’t require batteries, and once they’re installed, updates are provided wirelessly, so technicians don’t even need to visit.
Does this sound like magic? Cutting-edge AI systems might work as fast and easily as the wave of a wand, but they work with the unfailing logic, reliability, and precision only machines can provide. That’s why AI will be the future of elder care worldwide.