Emergency Alerts: How Caregiver Tools can Reduce Response Time to Save Lives

July 19, 2022

The percentage of the U.S. population that’s aged 65 or older is projected to hit 23.5% (98 million people) by 2060. 60% of these U.S. adults typically manage at least two chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Emergency response time is a key element in ensuring that long-term care facilities deliver the best possible care to residents.

Thankfully, modern caregiver tools leveraging emerging technologies such as AI are available to better manage care for older adults and improve staff performance.  Long-term care facilities have the potential to generate rich data sets that can be used for a myriad of efficiency gains. These facilities just need the right tools to help record and unlock the utility of the data.

What Are Emergency Alert Tools?

Emergency alert systems are solutions used in assisted-living centers that allow residents to call for help when they need assistance, suspect a medical problem, or fall. Emergency alert systems are also used to ensure mission readiness for staff members in care facilities.

The right emergency alert systems help caregivers to know what to do when an incident happens.  Caregivers can use them to respond appropriately instead of freezing up or panicking.

Emergency alert systems are an important part of caregiver tools because the speed with which staff in the care facility respond to critical incidents might make a major difference between administering first-aid, managing an injury, or ending up with a fatality. Research shows that a faster response time appears to reduce the total number of falls and the number of falls that lead to injuries in acute care settings for people aged 65 and older.

There are two broad types of emergency caregiver tools: legacy alert systems built around call lights and modern tech-powered solutions. Modern emergency alert systems are software-enabled digital solutions for managing the alerting, triaging, resolution, and reporting of incidents in care facilities within a unified platform.

The Limitations of Legacy Solutions on Response Times During Emergencies

Legacy solutions can provide inadequate response times during emergencies. These limitations include:

Inability to Generate Actionable Data

The first limitation of legacy alert systems during emergencies is that they do not generate data to improve responses to patient-triggered calls. A 2019 study shows that one of the major challenges facing LTC facilities using old call light systems is that these legacy systems don’t provide insights for improving residents’ wellbeing or staff performance.

The same study shows that caregivers intentionally declined about 10% of call light alerts. One of the reasons cited for the cancellation of call alerts is the high workload that makes them unavailable to assist residents immediately. When the call lights aren’t canceled, about 11% of the time, staff either forgot about a pending call light or residents had to manually call for their attention. Declining, ignoring, or forgetting the alerts means that the resident is left unattended and there’s no record of when or why they called for help.

Not Integrated with Clinical Data Access

Second, legacy solutions are not integrated with clinical data such as vitals, medications, allergies, exercise regimens, and continuous monitoring data.

Resident data across all systems is valuable in aggregate.  In order to make proper decisions for a resident’s well-being, the integration of these data sources into a holistic view is required. Caregivers need all of the resources within reach to respond, assess, and determine the best course of action in a crisis, but legacy solutions such as call lights are limited in their functionalities.

Inability to Differentiate Communication Types

Last, some legacy alert solutions do not have intra- and inter-team communication, and patient-triggered calls and are not capable of differentiating one call from another. Traditional solutions such as pull cords can’t differentiate between calls relating to discomfort, injury, or a medical emergency.

“Medical emergencies are often a race against time." If there’s no way to differentiate between an “I need to use the bathroom” call and an “I’m struggling to breathe” call, staff will be ill-equipped to respond appropriately.

How Modern Caregiver Tools Improve Response Times

Modern caregiver tools are technology-powered solutions that help manage daily living activities, extend residents’ independence, improve their quality of life, and ease the workload on caregivers in long-term care centers.

Emergency alert systems are a subset of modern caregiver tools that help improve response times by ensuring round-the-clock oversight of the general wellbeing of residents. These tech-powered caregiver tools also help to clearly identify staff roles before, during, and after an emergency, and they ensure that staff knows what to do and how to find resources.

Send Emergency Signals to the Care Team When Triggered

The alert tools are designed to let the care team know that the resident requires their attention or assistance. The devices can be wearable on a lanyard or in a watch band and alerts are triggered at the push of a button or activated using voice commands.

The best part is that these modern emergency alert systems are outfitted with data analytics to record when and why a resident called for attention and how soon it was before someone responded to the call. By delivering fail-proof alerts backed by data analytics to the care team, they can improve response times from caregivers and help prevent patient neglect.

Detect and Track Resident’s Location

One of the main goals of long-term care facilities is to enable older adults to age with dignity and as much relative independence as possible. This means that assisted-living centers are not run like military bootcamps, and residents can still move around the care center without much supervision.

Modern emergency alert systems help to ensure that out of sight is not out of mind, and technology is available to help detect and track patient location whenever the resident requests help. The location-tracking function is not always-on, but it can be activated by the resident with the push of a button so that a caregiver can quickly locate the resident and get to them when the need arises.

Provide Easy Access to Critical Care Information

Beyond alerting caregivers about incidents with residents, caregiver tools could also help improve the general wellbeing and care of residents in assisted-living facilities because they are connected to the broader care infrastructure.

This connection helps optimize the communication flow to improve response times from other healthcare professionals involved in caring for the residents. For instance, some alert tools may include tools for medication reminders, measuring vitals, and tracking activity and fitness levels. These tools may also be connected to the broader care infrastructure within the care facility or can reach out to the resident’s family members or physicians.

Generate Data for Trend Analysis for Proactive Care

Emergency alert tools also generate copious amounts of data that could be utilized in trend analysis to improve the care of residents in your facilities. Unlike call lights that don’t do more than being on or off, modern alert tools can record the frequency of different types of alerts over time. For instance, an uptick in the frequency of toilet requests or an acute spike in toileting assistance within a few days might indicate the need for an examination or intervention. The fact that modern alert tools record these incidents provides data points that make it easier to set a baseline and spot changes in the ‘normal’ activities of daily living so that you can act in good time.

Potentially help with Fall Alert Signals

Sometimes, aging adults fall and they may not be able to get up by themselves. About 36 million falls are reported among older adults in the U.S. every year—the number of falls is expected to jump to 52 million by 2030, largely due to an increase in the older population, with 12 million of those falls resulting in injuries. Some modern emergency alert systems can help with fall alerting to get the attention of caregivers in case a resident falls while alone. The fall alert signals will help caregivers respond quickly and provide support — as opposed to having residents struggling to get up from a fall or waiting for someone to check up on them.

Sage’s Caregiver Tools Empower Care Teams to Coordinate Care

Sage empowers long-term care facilities with the modern tech-powered caregiver tools they need to operate efficiently and provide better care. Specifically, Sage’s emergency alert tools follow a multi-step plan.

  1. Alert: Older adults can send alerts with a voice-activated device or by pressing a button.
  2. Notify: All designated caregivers on-call receive the alerts in the form of a text message with a link to details about the incident and the time elapsed since sending the alert. The fact that multiple caregivers get the alert ensures that none of the alerts goes unattended.
  3. Claim, Triage, Resolve: Caregivers use the Sage app to call the resident or quickly coordinate care and attend to those in need.
  4. Deescalate or Escalate: After checking on the resident, Sage’s emergency alert solutions can help caregivers deescalate emergencies to requests, message other caregivers, escalate the issue to other team members, or call 911.

Interested in Learning More About How Modern Caregiver Tools can Improve the Quality of Care?