Within the next 10 years, global demographics will change in a way never before experienced in recorded history. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the percentage of people aged 65 or older will constitute a higher percentage of the global population than young children (under 5). Additionally, over the next 40 years, in absolute numbers, the 65+ population is expected to nearly triple. The rate of change is occurring especially fast in emerging economies. For instance, while it took France nearly 100 years to see a doubling of its 65+ population, in China, this doubling will occur after only about 25 years.
In many countries, taxes paid by the employed pay for social programs to support the elderly. When the ratio of workers to retirees declines, it is increasingly difficult to fund these social programs. For example, in the United States the ratio of workers to retirees is expected to decline from 5.1 in 2000 to 2.9 in 2050. Therefore, throughout the developed world, treating chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension in a hospital setting will definitely strain the system.
On top of the monetary cost, elder care takes a lot of time. A whole ‘sandwich generation’ has emerged, bound by obligations to their children and parents simultaneously, while working full time.
Is there an answer? Probably not a perfect answer; however, there are things that can be done to stem the overwhelming cost of aging. Three promising advances are remote monitoring, integrated care delivery, and care collaboration through care circles.
Remote monitoring aims to keep people out of hospitals while still actively monitoring chronic conditions. By utilizing wearable devices ranging from clothing that can monitor vital signs to a contact lens that can screen for glucose levels in tears patient information can be captured. Using the massive patient data sets collected by wearable devices, recommendation engines can offer fixes to non-urgent problems while alerting the patient’s physician for more pressing concerns.
Companies like Humana advocate an integrated care delivery approach where each patient is treated as an individual. Each patient has a care coordinator, often the primary care physician, who helps him navigate any specialists he may need to utilize and make sure the compounding effect of multiple medications or lifestyle adjustments function in harmony.
Technology can also help lower the cost of aging by surrounding a patient with his own care circle. The way a care circle works is the patient creates a small social network of people who want to actively help him reach is wellness goals. He enters in his
wellness plan, which might include activities as taking medicine on time, exercising, and getting enough sleep. If he slips from these goals, his care circle is notified and can check in on him. When he makes progress, the care circle is there to give him a [virtual] high five. When physicians or therapists choose to join a care circle it allows them to have a more on-going dialogue with their patients/clients and scale in a way not possible by office visits alone.
Learn more about our Connected Care solutions and Care Circles. You can also join us at SAPPHIRE NOW, where you will get the opportunity to network with industry peers, to talk to SAP partners, to touch and feel the latest healthcare solutions and technology innovations. It’s a tremendous opportunity to get a vision of the possibilities for your healthcare organization.
The SAP for Healthcare team looks forward to seeing you at SAPPHIRE in Orlando, June 3-5. Register at http://www.sapandasug.com/index.html
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