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Thermal Cameras Bring Added Protection to Senior Care

Temperature Screening Tech Supports Efficiency and Data Collection

At the start of the pandemic, employees at Senior Centers in Newport News, Virginia., were stationed at the entrance to take readings with a manual thermometer and record the details on paper). The  community, ultimately set up a thermal camera system at a single point of entry.

“We set up our screening checkpoint at that one location that allowed us to control where people got screened, which was a huge benefit,” the organization’s administrator mentioned. “An automated solution brought more efficiency and more data collection into the process.”

Not only can the thermal imaging system quickly report the temperature of a staffer, it can record and transmit that information so employees or inspectors can search records by name, time or date to assist with contact tracing.

 

For senior care communities, the main conduit for COVID-19 is deceptively simple: a building’s front door.

“We know the primary way the virus gets into a nursing home or an assisted living community is from staff — and it’s often those who work in more than one community or those who are going home to their families and unwittingly becoming infected,” Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge.

This is why more providers have deployed thermal camera technology in the past few months. The subject was highlighted in several sessions at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting Virtual Experience.

By quickly screening an incoming employee or visitor for elevated body temperature — a common but not definitive symptom of COVID-19 — staff can deny that person entry to help prevent unintentional spread of the disease.

Infrared technology are integrated into all-in-one touchless kiosks that print a wearable sticker after a reading is taken to confirm an individual is approved to enter.

Although the pandemic has prompted more providers to discover and deploy these tools, they can serve a broader long-term purpose during periods such as flu season.

“This is not a COVID-19 strategy; this is an infection control strategy,” Jim Dellapa, CIO of the Piscataway, N.J.-based aging services organization Parker Life, told LeadingAge audiences Wednesday.

Best Practices for Using Thermal Cameras in Senior Care Communities

Setting up a thermal screening system requires planning, speakers told LeadingAge audiences.

Senior care teams must be diligent when vetting potential vendors. “The market has been flooded with these systems,” said Dellapa, who emphasized the tools should be a “core competency” for any technology provider being considered.

Newport news senior center staff tested one infrared solution against manual thermometers on incoming guests before moving forward with the purchase, Velderman said.

Communities must determine where and how screening technologies will be used. The safeguard is useless if other entrances remain open and unchecked, and protocols must be in place to quickly react if a high-risk individual is detected.

Meanwhile, an ongoing dialogue to share best practices and feedback about screening efforts must involve everyone working in a senior care community.

“This is not a solo IT project,” Majd Alwan, executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies, told conference attendees. “Understand the data interoperability requirements, your Wi-Fi needs and the IT infrastructure needed to support and even future-proof it.”

The infrared technology isn’t foolproof, but it is helping communities identify and keep out some visitors who may be infected with COVID-19.

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