Mitel’s Jim Davies believes IoT, VoIP and cloud technology hold the key to improving how we care for the elderly.
The impact the world’s ageing population will have on health and social systems globally is a growing concern. In the next decade, the over-60 population is forecast to grow 56 percent faster than the global population. In Europe, the number of people in the 70-79 age bracket will increase by 50 percent.
The senior population growth is placing increasing pressure on health and social systems. Primary healthcare providers everywhere are struggling to efficiently maintain quality of care with shrinking resources.
In addition, the cost of caring for the elderly in nursing homes is more than five times the cost of in-home care. As a result, many are turning to advances in technology to help reduce the bill.
Specifically, three technologies are showing promise to improve eldercare processes, ensuring the older generation has high quality, affordable care which is adaptable to modern life.
The mobile cloud
Combining cloud and mobile technologies enable healthcare organisations to achieve the holy grail of a more efficient, cost-effective and collaborative service. Cloud technologies can provide healthcare organisations with the ability to deliver more personalised and reliable communications and care in a scalable, secure and highly efficient way. The technology enhances work processes in a number of ways including enabling medical staff to access patient files on any device at any time helping them make immediate decisions.
Equally, cloud technologies can also enable real-time dynamic scheduling systems. This enables practitioners to organise home visits and reduce time spent travelling by plotting the most effective route based on current travel conditions and patient locations.
Smartphone apps can enable care workers to access corporate systems on the go and automatically notify patient caregivers of a problem should they arise. Smartphones also provide health practitioners with the ability to provide remote diagnosis and care instructions.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The always-on, connected world will make the difference between seniors being able to live at home and having to move to assisted living. If successfully implemented, this technology could save healthcare providers millions of pounds every year in eldercare costs.
IoT, where smart devices are connected via the web to ensure a seamless transfer of information and automation of processes, has the potential to revolutionise elderly care. Gartner predicts up to 21 billion devices will be connected to IoT by 2020 and a number of these will aid everyday tasks which challenge the elderly.
IoT and connected devices can potentially revolutionise how elderly people live alone. For example, people with mobility issues who struggle to answer the door can benefit from an internet-connected door lock system which enables health workers to safely enter the home. Such apps mean that door access can be controlled through a smart device and family members can be alerted of who has entered the home and when, providing peace of mind for security. Such devices can also sync up to cameras outside the home so the resident always has full knowledge of who they are letting into their home. This is invaluable for family members who live far from the patient but want peace of mind that their relative is being cared for.
A smart home, wherein devices including plug sockets and fridges are interconnected, can support eldercare in a number of ways.
Connected devices throughout the home can become the eyes and ears for seniors, making independent living a reality. For example, smart fridges can sense when grocery supplies are low and automatically order new items. Curtain controls, light and motion sensors, out-of-bed detectors, fall alarms and even smart medicine cabinets can equally enhance an elderly person’s quality of life and ability to live independently.
Video calling technology
Wi-Fi or 4G enabled video calling via smart phones, tablets and smart TVs can provide an important lifeline for seniors as well as lending to an overall sense of wellbeing. This makes it easy and affordable for relatives to check in, even if they don’t live nearby. Care workers can provide a remote diagnosis speeding up treatment and saving a hospital visit. This technology gives those who are less mobile the ability to connect with a homecare worker, a psychologist, a doctor, or a family member via a mobile device or a fixed screen.
A home-care worker can remotely check that a client is taking the right medication, or instruct a relative or neighbour how to administer that medication.
Cloud-based IT infrastructures, IoT and video calling have the potential to revolutionise elderly care and improve the quality of lives of millions. They will enable elderly people to stay in their homes and remain independent for longer while allowing care providers to better budget their time, provide a higher level of care and be in more frequent contact with the patient.
By Jim Davies, vice president, vertical initiatives, Mitel