How Healthcare Technology Shapes the Lives
of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Written by Dr. Craig Escudé
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) experience numerous challenges accessing healthcare and receiving services and supports that result in poorer overall health, lower life expectancies, and reduced possibilities to live a full life of their choosing. Technological advances are facilitating earlier detection of illnesses that are often missed and improving health outcomes for a population with significant health disparities. These advances additionally have widespread applicability extending to people who are aging, people with cognitive decline, traumatic brain injury, and other differences.
Health Risk Informed Telemedicine™
The Health Risk Screening Tool (HRST) is a web-based application used to screen for health risks in people with IDD. Supporters of people with IDD answer simple health-related questions about the person they support, and the tool then provides a person-specific health risk profile to enlighten support teams and clinicians. Beyond identifying those risks, the HRST delivers action steps specific to the person’s risk profile that supporters utilize to mitigate those risks. Using this tool helps supporters to recognize signs of illness sooner and empowers them to act upon them with confidence. Earlier identification of health conditions leads to better outcomes.
In a new health model called Health Risk Informed Telemedicine™, IntellectAbility’s HRST risk profile technology is being integrated into telehealth companies’ electronic health record platforms like StationMD that provide vital telemedicine services to people with IDD. The telehealth clinician then has access to their patient’s most significant health risks, enabling them to make better-informed decisions about the person.
“Watch” That Seizure
Did you know your watch can detect seizures? Electronic watches with motion sensors can detect body movements consistent with seizure activity. They can alert staff or family members of the possible seizure and prompt a check-in on the person.
Improving Safety and Accuracy with Medication Usage
People with IDD often rely on medications to treat health conditions. Still, delivering those to the person can be complex, especially in enterprise settings like group homes and supported living arrangements when relying on others to assist in administration, record keeping, and other related processes.
Technology, through the use of apps tailored to IDD Residential workflows along with their app-connected medication boxes that only provide access to the right medications, at the right times, for the right people, can dramatically improve medication and regulatory compliance and independence for the individual.
Additionally, this technology, such as that from ImpruvonHealth, can drastically reduce the number of medication errors, improve safety, and reduce the time needed by nursing and direct support staff to deliver medication to the person.
Monitoring From Afar
Remote monitoring systems can enable people who need extra support to live more independently. They may come in the form of web-connected alarms that can alert a support staff member if the oven is left on, if a smoke alarm goes off, and if a person falls. Or, they can prompt people to perform activities such as daily grooming or taking their medication at the right time, allowing them to live more independently without having someone in their home 24/7.
The independence gained from utilizing such supports can be life-changing to the person, allowing for more privacy and independence while still assuring safety. Companies like SimplyHome focus on using these remote supports to improve independence for people with IDD.
What Did You Say?
Everyone communicates. We may not all use words, but we all definitely communicate. People with IDD can frequently comprehend more than most people assume, but they may not be able to communicate effectively through speaking and writing. However, there are technological advances that improve their ability to communicate.
There are numerous devices that can facilitate communication, as well as apps that can be used on tablets and phones to assist someone who has a limited ability to use words to communicate to be able to type in words or utilize pictures to communicate more effectively with others.
Getting From Here to There
There are also apps that have been developed to assist people with IDD to navigate more successfully in their communities. Other apps can prompt them to stay on task and digitally connect to a virtual job coach when they need support at work. Apps like these help foster greater independence while reducing the need for paid, in-person support during these activities.
Technology is advancing in so many ways and at such a pace that one can only imagine the future. I encourage “techies” out there to give attention to research and development of technology related to improving health, wellness, freedom, and independence for some of society’s most at-risk. And to take it one step further, imagine what collaboration between these different technologies could offer.