Technology is revolutionising many industries, it is inevitable to acknowledge its emphasis on the ageing population which is amplified by the challenges in health and aged care delivery. An ageing population will also drive a distinct increase in the demand for quality care services and subsequent workforce pressures.
Advancement in technology is changing the way care is delivered; allowing elderly consumers to apply self-directed care, while availing healthcare professionals access to information essential to the healing cycle in an instant. Furthermore, technology allows for aged care businesses to answer consumer demand in areas that were previously difficult to access.
Frost & Sullivan stated (Major Trends & Attractions In The Global Aged Care Market, 2015), that increased use of technology in the aged care market not only has economic benefits, but enables the ageing populace to enjoy better quality of life. Consumers and care workers alike would also have a smoother journey in the care experience when care is delivered to where its need, when its needed.
Ageing populations around the world are rapidly growing and aged care businesses need to capitalise on this technological boon to succeed in the future. Hence, increasing attention is being given towards developing new technologies that will help capture quality data.
Taking stock of the local environment, let’s look into three key areas in healthcare that technology progress will enhance and thus, propel news levels of consumer demand and quality service.
Living At Home Longer & Safer
For elderly people to live longer in their homes, wearable devices – such as smart bands, intelligent insoles, etc. – and smart home technologies are being developed in order to support them through improved remote monitoring.
Sensors will regularly track the individual’s health readings and feed data into a central monitor point for the overseeing healthcare professional to keep track in real-time and provide feedback/support from distant locations. In the event a possible fall or mishap occurs, an immediately respond could then be mobilised.
With the development of the Internet of Things (IOT), technologies that integrate various devices together has become increasingly sophisticated, to the point where sensors can alert a central monitoring system of a possible mishap if a resident of a home has not left a particular room for an unusual amount of time.
Hence, development surrounding smart monitoring technologies will drive many of these possibilities in healthcare support and security within the aged care industry.
Lost and Found
Alzheimer’s Disease International reported that the number of dementia cases in Malaysia were estimated to double every 20 years. That is one new dementia case in every 3 seconds. Depending on the stage of the disease, persons with dementia may require 24-hour supervision.
In these cases, the assistance provided by wearable technology is invaluable. Apart from tracking vital signs and providing reminders for the wearer to take their medication, some wearable devices incorporate GPS to track children and seniors alike, or detect if a user has been immobile for a prolonged period – in this case, it will call for emergency services or pre-set contacts numbers.
Assisted Daily Living
In Frost & Sullivan’s report, competition in robotics development is expected to grow intensively between 2020 – 2030. One of the reasons being notably, the many benefits robotics could bring to aged care.
In terms of the physical aspect, robots can provide help with daily living activities such as cleaning and cooking, as well as assistance with exercise and transferring (e.g. from chair to bed). They can also be companions, analyse emotional well-being and act to mitigate feelings of loneliness amongst the elderly.
In Japan, senior care robots are already being piloted. Therefore, we can expect to see more sophisticated robots in the future that could help elderly people do more and achieve better quality of life.
Technology Enhancing Care Quality
Melinda U, General Manager of Managedcare Sdn Bhd, says the ability to access and analyse well documented information is crucial to making sound decisions for the best possible health outcomes, not only when care is needed but also for prevention.
“These technologies give empowerment to individuals by helping them to self-manage their health and to take action when alerted about a potential crisis early. For medical and healthcare professionals, it enables them to provide more timely interventions and efficient support.”
Integrating new technology into the aged care industry will create smoother processes in care delivery, provide better insights and establish superior customer care. Naturally, consumers will seek out businesses that can effectively showcase their ability to provide the best care to their clients.
Currently, there are many gaps within Malaysia’s care delivery process and aged care ecosystem in terms of efficiency and cost of care. Despite its infancy stage, Malaysia’s aged care industry is in a unique position to integrate and grow these technologies alongside its developing ecosystem.
Moving forward, it is inevitable that technology will continue to drive innovation in aged care worldwide and enhance the human-centred element in the provision of care.
“These technologies could cover the gap in service delivery, but they aren’t mainstream in Malaysia yet. There is still a lot of research and development going on in this area. However, Managedcare recognises its potential to complement our mission in making care more easily accessible and we are exploring these options” says Melinda.