In 2020, we will witness an unprecedented demographic shift in the history of human kind. For the first time, there will be more elderly people than young children.
For years, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have been discussing the impact and challenges of this demographic milestone as governments in industrialized countries have been preparing for the financial and social impact that this shift in population will bring.
For example, the National Health Service (NHS), which handles public health services in England, has been testing a coordinated care system that invests in preventative care to keep people—the elderly in particular—out of the hospital setting. This not only keeps hospitals sustainable, but also moves care closer to home. The NHS program is part of a growing trend in value-based care initiatives in the U.K. and elsewhere that seek to increase care and reduce costs through coordinated care efforts, better monitoring and increased patient engagement.
As health organizations and agencies across the globe address the cost-related aspects of the growing elderly population, another critically important discussion is underway to protect and better serve this most vulnerable population.
Seniors are often faced with a variety of challenges including health concerns and limited access to healthcare services, communication difficulties, and financial hardships. But now, more than ever, technology can support elderly patients to help them overcome these challenges and better manage their health.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are tools the elderly population helped create and are now being used to provide the kind of care that will result in better quality of life. AI allows a computer to solve problems for which it was not explicitly programmed to handle. This is possible through the use of machine learning algorithms that can process data to make better decisions because—much like in our human experience—each experience provides a learning nugget from which to improve future results.
In response to rising costs and value-based reimbursements, the healthcare industry has come to embrace the use of AI and machine learning. The type of personalized care that is now possible through the use of these tools is helping us better identify risks in patients, determine a best course of action, track their progress, and adjust treatment to avoid potential complications.
This type of personalized care is critically important as a patient goes from a hospital setting to a post-acute care one, particularly the home. From monitoring test results, medication adherence and prescription refills to ordering transportation for a patient’s next appointment, AI can serve to empower patients and their providers.
Seniors are embracing internet-based medical technology and preliminary results from an ongoing study by researchers at the Open University in UK found people over 55 are open to new tools offered through wearable devices. According to the researchers, the devices could help seniors make better health choices, and sharing data with providers results in increased communication and, in some cases, a feeling of being more connected … and perception is reality.
The more connected seniors are, the less vulnerable they will be and the more engaged they will be in their healthcare regime. This engagement leads to empowerment and improved health outcomes.