• Sanjay Gopal, PhD

Body Temperature Scanners – A new normal in senior living?

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, new requirements regarding staff and visitor screening have been mandated, including measuring and recording body temperatures. There are new technologies available that alleviate this burden on an already taxing workload. These technologies have additional features like artificial intelligence, facial recognition and mask detection that can offload some of these new requirements while enhancing your quality of service. Now is the time to learn more about these technologies and to ask yourself:

“How could temperature scanners help my team and our senior living community?”

Here are seven questions to consider as you evaluate the technology options:

1. What are the “real-world” benefits of this technology?

The advantages of temperature scanners are automation and high throughput of taking and recording body temperature measurements. Scanners also minimize risk of exposure to your team members who are using a non-contact forehead thermometer for temperature measurements. If visitor sign-ins require no staff assistance, they reduce the risk of exposure of staff to asymptomatic visitors. However, to truly minimize risk exposure for staff and residents, visitor/staff screening needs to be completely touch-free, which is difficult to find. Many systems on the market today still require some button touching and will need to be sanitized after every visitor, which is more labor-intensive, increases operating costs and is more prone to contamination.

2. How does temperature scanner technology support CDC and health department compliance?

Temperature scanners on their own may not be sufficient for compliance. Federal and/or state mandates require record-keeping of more than just body temperature measurements, such as documenting and tracking responses to COVID-19 specific screening questions. It would be wise to look beyond screening questions and see how the scanner systems can help you with documenting detailed information about visitors, such as the reason for visit and resident contacts. Carefully considering how the systems would fit within your overall visitor/staff screening process – both from a routine workflow and compliance perspective – can help determine the fit of the technology for your environment.

3. What is the temperature scanner technology?

The scanners are all basically the same in that they detect the presence of a person, measure and display their temperature and sound an alarm, if necessary, based on preset thresholds. Additionally, most (but not all) units can detect if an individual is wearing a facemask, and several units also offer facial recognition to identify the person, if pre-registered in their database. The temperature measurement is conceptually similar to how non-contact forehead thermometers work in that they measure the surface temperature. The scanners run on either Android or Linux operating systems. Android systems could future-proof your investment via additional apps that can be loaded to extend functionality. Depending on your specific need one of these could be a better fit than the other.

4. How does your staff benefit?

Depending on the features implemented, the impact of this technology is different for the receptionist/concierge, than for your other staff (e.g. business office, maintenance). Questions you should ask yourself include: How automated is your community, or how automated do you want it to be? What are your “visitors hours” and which entrances are you staffing and during which hours? This is a key determinant of your return-on-investment (ROI) if your community workflow includes a concierge or receptionist

5. How does temperature scanning fit with your current technology?

Most of the devices available have the ability to control door locks and integrate into a community’s access control system. Questions to ask: Do you need this integration capability? What door access technology have you deployed? While integrating the devices with magnetic door locks may be beneficial, make sure that the scanner you are investigating works with the RFID or key-card system that you already use. Investing in a new key-card system is a non-starter for most communities as it increases costs and can cause additional work for staff and complexity for users. Weigh your options carefully when evaluating this functionality and its fit for your community.

6. Do you need facial recognition?

Most of the devices support facial recognition. While this could be useful in certain cases, its primary use would be for recurring visitors, such as staff and health providers. Investigate how easy it would be to set up facial recognition and to keep it updated as you add staff and providers to your community. This is an area where the software applications that are included with the scanner needs to be carefully evaluated for ease of use.

7. How does the scanner address HIPAA & Privacy Concerns?

Most of the devices have the ability to capture and store a digital photo of the visitor, and also the measured temperature values. Determine where the data will be stored and how easy it would be to retrieve it at a time of need. Almost all of the devices store data locally on the scanner itself for a period of time and most devices can optionally store it on a cloud server. If it’s the latter, then data privacy should be a primary concern. Questions to ask: Does retrieving data require any special software? In a time of need can any person on your management team easily retrieve the data? It is unwise to ignore HIPAA and data privacy regulations. Given the current conditions, ask and make sure you know how your information will be protected, accessed and backed-up.

Clearly identifying your goals and the challenges you are trying to resolve can help in determine the true value of the specific features for your community and maximize the return on your technological investment.

On a final note, keep in mind that the body temperature scanner is just one component of your overall screening and workflow optimization process. Carefully consider how it will support your organization’s compliance as well as how it fits your community and staff workflows.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

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