Remote Supports : 10 common questions every family should ask

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 06:41

Remote support technology comes in many forms. From medication dispensers that remind individuals to take their medication (and alert staff if access hasn’t occurred) to more high-tech options such as remote monitoring where external staff monitor a series of sensors and/or video  to alert internal staff to a need, options exist to help increase an individual’s privacy and independence while maintaining their needed level of care.

The first step in learning more about the remote supports that may work for you/your family member is knowing which initial questions to ask. We’ve captured the top 10 questions many family members and self-advocates have about using remote technology supports and received general answers from providers, vendors, and case managers. Keep these questions in mind when working with your team as you explore available options.

Without a physical body in the residence, how will the safety of the person be ensured?

Providers will work with the individual’s team to assess existing safety concerns, develop an appropriate monitoring and response plan, and then install the correct remote support technology to meet safety requirements as well as independence goals. The safety needs of each individual will be unique, and this planning process serves to outline the necessary staff coverage. It is important to remember that modifications may always be made to the plan to provide the best support possible for the individual receiving care.

Who determines what alerts and technology will be used? Who can change it?

The individual served and their team determines what monitoring technology will be needed to assure the individual’s needs and safety concerns are being met. Additional safeguards, such as specific alerts or tracking activity, may be set up to cover any “what if” scenarios the team may have, even if there isn’t a foreseen vulnerability or risk. At any time, the individual and team may make modifications to the technology in use. In fact, changes are common to either better account for things not originally considered or to decrease the level of alerts which the team may not find as necessary/useful as originally thought.

How does remote support technology increase independence?

Remote support technology allows a person to function throughout their day without staff having to be constantly present providing direction or reminders. For example, increased independence may be found by staff only entering the residence when the individual needs them vs having a staff member check in every thirty minutes to see if there is a need. In lieu of a staff member administering medication, a medication dispenser may be used to alert an individual to take their medication and signal staff when the day’s medication container has been opened (or has yet to be opened). Many individuals enjoy, and thrive, with the increased privacy and independence the technology offers them.

What happens if there is a power outage?

Prior to implementing the technology, providers walk team members through their response plans for emergency situations. Most remote support technology has a battery back-up, both for the systems installed at the home and at the remote site. In the event the system goes out completely, additional back-up plans would be put into action.These redundancies ensure individuals are not without assistance if needed, regardless of power supply.

What happens if there is a problem with the equipment?

During implementation, this would be a conversation to discuss with the team and provider. Many, if not all monitoring agencies will have a process available to notify of any issues with the functioning of the system or loss of contact. Back-up plans would be put in place to address what will happen when these instances take place. Also Identified and discussed in that plan would include items such as what to do when the system is down and the process and responsible parties for replacing components.

When should changes be made to the plan using technology?

The plan for using monitoring technology will be continuously evaluated to assess its effectiveness in supporting the person’s needs. Monitoring technology should change when the individual’s needs or goals change.

What about staff training regarding the use of technology?

The vendor will assure that staff, and all individuals involved, are educated on the equipment installed in the residence and how it works. The provider will be responsible for ongoing training on changes in alerts as the individuals needs change and address performance issues if staff aren’t meeting the needs of the individual as indicated by the data provided.

What happens when I/my family member needs assistance, but there is not staff in the home/apartment?

If an individual is in need of assistance when staff is not present in the residence, staff may be alerted in one of two ways. If a sensor has been tripped, staff will be notified according to the response plan. If staff isn’t present, but an individual needs/wants assistance outside of what their sensors are programmed for, they may “call” staff using the method chosen in their technology plan, such as by pushing a button, using a voice activated phone, or initiating a video call. Each alert has a “calling tree” that can include several phone numbers. The phone numbers and the order in which the system calls the numbers is able to be changed at any time.

I am curious about the use of the sensors and the data that is collected. Am I able to receive the data as well?

Yes. At any time, members of the team are able to request a data summary from their provider for the sensors in the residence.

What is the response time of the office staff?

As a part of the alternative adult foster care licensing process, your caregiver must develop and provide you with policies, procedures, and response protocols.  You must give your consent before use of technology is implemented. The statute requires that a caregiver respond within 10 minutes unless certain other provisions are met and approved by the Department of Human Services, Division of Licensing.  The alternative adult foster care license allows for a longer response if you consent to it, if the caregiver assures that certain conditions are met including the provision where the remote care provider can maintain interactive communications with you to assure you are safe and your needs are met.

If you live in your own home or another licensed or non-licensed home, you should ask your caregiver for the same procedures and protocols to ensure you are comfortable with the level of risk present with whatever response time is decided upon.


Visit the ARRM Technology Resource Center to learn about more success stories and case studies showing how technology is changing the lives of those living with disabilities or learn more about how to start the conversation.


More Best Practices

Monitoring Technology: Informed Consent and Individual Privacy When utilizing monitoring technology, the issues surrounding informed consent and individual privacy

Assessments for remote monitoring—and technology in general—help teams ask the right questions to identify goals and outcomes technology may assist with. Most technology service vendors and many service providers have their own assessment process to help fine tune outcomes and recommend specific tool options.

There are numerous funding streams that providers and service recipients can use to support
technology use.

While the state of Minnesota boasts one of the richest, most comprehensive funding structures for technology, there continue to be areas in which funding is not available. Lack of formal funding should not deter providers from considering to invest their own dollars in certain solutions which make sense to help improve an organization’s ability to encourage independence of the people we support as well as helping an organization become more effective.

The Phoenix Residence made the decision to invest heavily in new technology when they transitioned from paper records to electronic processing. Their new technology investments not only freed up resources to assist in handling some workforce issues that are common in the disability services industry, but also had the added benefit of allowing their residents to utilize assistive technology devices powered through Wi-Fi to increase independence.

Remote support and the technology it requires is not new, but spreading the word and adapting regulatory and funding rules to take advantage of it has been a slow process. Because “supervision” required the presence of a DSP, funders felt safe tying payment to DSP physical presence, and regulatory language often used “supervision” and “staff ” interchangeably. It all worked, for better or worse, until supervision no longer required the physical presence of a DSP. Minnesota has found a way to adapt funding and regulation to use the new technology tools, and it is starting to catch on.