It’s no longer news that the populations of many countries are ageing. Rising house prices, successive global recessions, automation and a global pandemic have all contributed to people putting off starting families until later in life.
When seniors approaching retirement with deteriorating health are supported by smaller families in a state with fewer taxpayers, pressure is certain to build. People now live longer, but they may need healthcare and social support for decades after they retire.
There are 3 main technology factors that will shape the future of senior care. By understanding the implications of each, medical professionals, healthcare providers, and the families of the elderly can plot a course towards manageable solutions that will improve quality of life for all.
1) Enabling independent living
The end goal of healthcare and social support is giving those who receive these services a better quality of life. This may mean different things to different people, but essentially it boils down to freedom to live lives as much on your own terms as possible.
The family members of elderly relatives have to delicately balance the obligation of care with the needs of their household – a difficult situation that often leads to stress. Yet technologies like smart hubs, fall alarms, mobility vehicles, home deliveries, and remote video consultations give seniors the freedom to independently plan their days while their family members stay connected to the care process.
Instead of being bound by restrictions, all involved in the care process can build a suite of support technologies that cover the needs of all parties. The end result is seniors who stay connected to their community of family and friends, and family members who support this liberty through a safety net of technologies.
2) Removing critical care bottlenecks
Turning now to healthcare professionals, it is evident that they have to work more efficiently than ever before to meet the demands of an aging public. Specialists like oncologists and radiologists in particular are in high demand, and the pressure to correctly diagnose more patients can lead to increased work hours, fatigue, and through no fault of their own, mistakes.
This is unsustainable. However, we live in a globally connected world, and technology at its heart is a tool that enables us to perform a task more efficiently in less time. Digital images can be uploaded to privacy-first medical archives and accessed by a chain of specialists spread across different time zones around the world.
Instead of waiting for the backlog to clear, well-rested, alert specialists can give diagnoses and treatment plans in hours instead of days. At its core, the key benefit here is the speed at which information is created, processed, and analysed. By leveraging global connectivity, critical care bottlenecks in all areas of care can be bypassed.
3) Optimizing treatment paths
Building on this idea, remote monitoring devices can play a huge role in optimizing the choices made by medical professionals. Elderly care facilities in particular face the challenge of diagnosing symptoms displayed by those in their care and deciding whether medical intervention is required.
An increasingly impactful solution is the creation of remote monitoring platforms consisting of connected devices and online portals that guide caregivers through initial assessment of patients presenting symptoms. Instead of transporting each patient to emergency room, caregivers can receive legitimate medical advice from a team of specialists who can then recommend the right course of action.
In the UK, a smart home monitoring provider Howz together with NHS and Medixine’s platform, was able to decrease 32% in emergy admissions with their service. The treatment path is optimizable because the right information is available for correct diagnosis at each step. Once again, this can be applied to pretty much any step in the healthcare treatment path.
Technology can often be seen as a dehumanising force in healthcare, where robots take the place of human interaction. This is only the case if it is used with the end goal of the most efficient processes. Technology that is used to deliver treatments that improve quality of life are the opposite.
Seniors, through no fault of their own, require support that may be unsustainable to give if traditional practices are followed. Once the positive impact on their daily lives is understood and demonstrated, sentiment will change.