While the figure has seen a slight dip in the past few years, life expectancy in the U.S. has increased steadily over the past four decades. While there may be several factors contributing to people living longer lives, advances in healthcare technology are certainly a factor. But, the elderly population (65+) will have doubled from 2000 to 2030. With an aging population comes an additional burden on the healthcare system as providers need to manage a larger elderly population with fewer physicians.
To manage the increase in elderly patients – and instances of chronic conditions – connected health technologies and telehealth will become an increasingly important part of managing and delivering care in an aging society. That’s especially true of an elderly population that prefers to age in place (more than three-quarters of older Americans say they would like to age in their current homes or communities).
5 Ways Connected Health Solutions Can Help
Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote patient monitoring solutions leverage connected devices to collect health data from patients and transmit them to providers and into patients’ electronic records for ongoing monitoring and decision-making. Wearable devices can track health signs continuously, or they can be used at regular intervals to report data as needed. Remote patient monitoring systems can be particularly useful for monitoring chronic conditions in elderly patients, who have difficulty getting to regular in-person appointments. They can also supplement in-person visits to reduce the need for travel while creating more time for physicians to see other patients. Regular monitoring using remote patient monitoring solutions can help better manage chronic conditions and identify patients in need of intervention to help prevent hospitalization due to complications and allow patients to live more comfortably in their homes.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)
Every year, millions of people older than 65 experience falls, but fewer than half of them inform their physicians, which could mean injuries go untreated. Connected devices can monitor for falls or other abnormal movements to alerts providers and caregivers if an incident occurs, allowing them to check in on patients. PERS devices can be connected either over WiFi for closed environments or over mobile networks for patients with more freedom of mobility. For instance, elderly patients with various forms of dementia may occasionally wander beyond their defined areas, or even forget where they and be unable to find their way back home. In fact, 60% of dementia patients experience wandering episodes. PERS devices can alert caregivers when patients have moved beyond geographically defined safety zones and provide two-way communication so caregivers can help patients get back to their homes or facilities.
Remote Medication Management
Connected medication devices can help elderly patients stay on track with their prescriptions. Some are designed to dispense only the appropriate medication at the right times, reducing the risk of overmedication, while others can send notifications to providers or caregivers when patients access them, helping track their medication intake. Alerts set up through patient apps or portals can send reminders via text, phone, or email to remind patients to take their medication, and can require confirmation to help monitor compliance.
Like remote patient monitoring systems, telehealth visits can help reduce travel, costs, and time for in-person visits, allowing regular visits and follow-ups to be conducted remotely. This can make it easier for patients – especially those with higher risks – to see their physicians regularly, helping avoid complications through more frequent interactions, all while in the comfort of their own homes. It can also enable doctors to see more patients in a period of time and, by increasing physician efficiency, may also help reduce stress and burnout rates.
Personal Healthcare Assistants
AI-driven health assistants can engage patients on a regular basis to check in with them, ask a series of health-related questions, collect information that can help providers assess conditions and progress, and communicate personalized health information about treatment and chronic care. AI can also analyze voice patterns to identify mood changes and other signals that could indicate a need for additional attention from healthcare professionals. The side-benefit is that regular conversations with virtual assistants can create an ongoing dialogue with patients to not only create a long-term picture of their health, but it can also provide a source of daily engagement for patients.
The growing elderly population is a function of not only advances in healthcare but of the Baby Boomer generation all reaching retirement age. At the same time, doctors from that generation are also retiring, adding to a growing shortage of healthcare professionals. Combined with an already existing burnout issue, these issues increase the need for advanced connected health solutions to help deliver healthcare services.