Meals on Wheels: Looking Out for Senior Health and Safety

What is Meals on Wheels America?

Meals on Wheels America is a federal program in which kitchen volunteers prepare meals that are delivered by volunteer delivery drivers to seniors and to people with disabilities. The program receives about $1,000 in donations every day, which it uses to buy the food that is delivered. Over 5,000 organizations deliver the meals. Individual drivers commit to delivering meals between one day per week and one day per month.

How the Meal Program Added Other Personal Assistance to their Services

The health, personal hygiene, home safety, and mobility of the people receiving meals are often noticed by the Meals on Wheels America delivery drivers, especially when these volunteers are invited into the clients’ homes to set the meals down on a table or counter and are then invited to stay for a long chat.

Catching health and safety problems and referring at-risk clients to the proper health and community services prevents some of the situations from becoming more serious. While a few lucky clients who were in especially bad situations may have been personally referred to health agencies by their meal delivery drivers, there was no organized way to identify and get help to all of the people who needed help.

Because the Meals on Wheels America delivery drivers were the only people who visited many of those seniors and disabled people, their meal delivery program became the obvious way to efficiently obtain objective health and home safety information about many of their senior citizen and disabled clients and then get daily living assistance to the ones who needed it. Meals on Wheels America decided to take action.

The Research Project

To discern the feasibility of leveraging the Meals on Wheels food delivery service for the purpose of identifying unmet daily living needs of some of their clients, researchers from Meals on Wheels America, Brown University, and the West Health Institute conducted a study. They called the study “Leveraging Home-Delivered Meal Programs to Address Unmet Needs for At-Risk Older Adults: Preliminary Data.” The study was done using Meals on Wheels in San Diego and Guernsey counties in Ohio.

The Introduction of ServTracker Software to the Healthcare Mix

The research included the testing of a mobile application software named “Mobile Meals,” which is part of Accessible Solutions, Inc.’s ServTracker. The ServTracker software was created for both meal delivery and homecare services for senior citizens. It is an integrated software program that increases efficiency, productivity, and accuracy.

Because the software reduces paperwork and redundancies, performs digital billing, and changes the statuses of clients in real time, it eliminates administrative work that would normally be done at the end of each day. The software enables the management of employees and volunteers, saves money, reduces risk, and makes the necessary reporting process a breeze. ServTracker is HIPAA compliant, EDI compliant, secure, mobile, modular and scalable, customizable, and is cloud-based.

Because it is a mobile app, ServTracker has many additional features that have to do with mobility. These include:

  • Electronic signatures collection
  • Generate accurate timekeeping
  • Real-time delivery confirmation
  • Service request changes on the fly
  • GPS street-by-street directions
  • Real-time information
  • Track client changes in condition
  • GPS mapping
  • Push route sheets digitally to drivers
  • Eliminate manual reconciliation

Mobile computer software was needed to keep track of both the changing health and living conditions of clients and the statuses of the coordinators’ follow-up visits and referrals. ServTracker was the obvious technological choice that researchers used.

ServTracker offers a lean on-boarding process. Both the delivery drivers and the care coordinators who were involved in the study received the software company’s streamlined training in how to use the ServTracker mobile application for electronic alert submittal.

The Research Results

During the year-long research period, all obvious changes in the San Diego and Guernsey county clients’ health and safety were reported by the drivers to the care coordinators through the app. The care coordinators followed up on the reports and referred the struggling clients to the appropriate health and community services.

The research study was a success. Drivers submitted 429 alerts concerning 189 clients, and 132 of the 189 were deemed by the care coordinators to need living assistance of one kind or another. Changes in health were most frequent (56%) by the meal delivery drivers. The next most frequent observation involved either personal safety or self-care concerns (12%), and 11% of the reports involved mobility problems. Thirty-three percent of the 132 referrals that the care coordinators made regarded the clients’ self-care, 17% regarded health concerns, and 17% of them were referred to care management.

Future Plans Regarding Technology-Based Reporting by Meals on Wheels America

Because the research results indicated that using both the use of Meals on Wheels America program and the ServTracker software was a success, Meals on Wheels America and West Health recently announced that they plan to include up to 30 more Meals and Wheels America sites across the U.S. in the mobile application research program. This expansion of the study will screen approximately 40,000 seniors and disabled people.